By: Scott McGrath
Maryland head coach Randy Edsall famously—at least among the Virginia fan base—said, “Here at Maryland, we don’t lose to Virginia.”
This should have just been added motivation for a Cavalier team looking to earn their first win in five games and trying to salvage a season.
Right from the opening kickoff, the game looked like it would not be going Virginia’s way when Stefon Diggs returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.
Special teams problems have been far too common for the Cavaliers this season. After the comeback attempt against Louisiana Tech was foiled by sending out both the punt team and the defense, Virginia has surrendered a kick return for a touchdown, had a field goal attempt blocked, and have not had many kick return yards themselves.
Virginia played from behind for the rest of the game and was once again unable to mount a successful comeback. However, we did learn a few things about the team from their bout with the Terrapins.
The quarterback competition has not yet been solved. Though it seemed that Philip Sims had secured his spot with the promise he showed in the first half against Duke, he was vastly ineffective against Maryland and finished with a pick and 139 passing yards, just ten more than leading rusher Kevin Parks had on the ground.
To make matters more complicated, Michael Rocco came into the game in the fourth quarter to offer a change of pace and successfully led a drive that culminated in a 24 yard touchdown pass to Jake McGee.
It does not seem likely that Rocco will start against Wake Forest, but it does put pressure on Sims to perform since the position could be up for grabs, once again.
One complimentary positive to the deep threat Sims brings is that the running game has found a lot of success in the past two games. Kevin Parks finished with 129 yards rushing on just 17 carries and the team as a whole racked up 168 rushing yards. Consistency on the ground is needed for the team to find success, especially with the ever shaky passing game.
The defense for the first time since the second half of TCU game looked especially sharp. Maryland’s touchdowns came on a kickoff return, a short field following an interception that put the defense in an especially tough position, and another short field after a 37 yard kickoff return—after the team had already been penalized 15 yards before the kickoff.
Mistakes by the offense and the special teams killed the defense, but they were able to rise to the occasion when it mattered most. Otherwise, they held the Terps to only two field goals and were able to force a turnover—which is a crucial change for this team—after a Cavaliers score left the team down by just seven.
The two best and most promising stats from the defense this game were their two sacks—1.5 by true freshman Eli Harold—and Maryland’s final rushing total: negative two yards.
You read that right. The defense held Maryland to negative yardage on the ground over 29 attempts, yet the Cavaliers still lost.
The Wahoos were penalized for 65 more yards than Maryland was flagged for. With mistakes on offense and special teams are happening so frequently, racking up penalties is just adding salt to the wound and is something the coaching staff needs to fix.
Virginia needed a win against Maryland to keep hope alive for a bowl game. With the loss, four wins in five games against tough in-conference opponents just to become bowl eligible will be a perhaps insurmountable challenge.