October 05, 2008
Maybe you could look at Virginia's 31-0 stunner over Maryland Saturday and think, "Wow, Virginia really turned it around." This is undeniably true. Take Marc Verica, for example: after combining for five interceptions, zero touchdowns and the lowest pass efficiency rating in the ACC in his first two starts, a 35-point loss at UConn and 28-point loss at Duke, respectively, the sophomore lit up Maryland for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. His efficiency rating (148.8) was a full 16 points higher than the best average efficiency (belonging to Wake Forest's Riley Skinner) in the conference.
Or take the Cavalier running game, which had run for 264 yards combined through its first four games. The Cavs had 201 on the ground against the Terps, including its two best individual totals of the season (110 yards by Cedric Peerman and 77 yards by Markell Simpson); Peerman's 35-yard run against UMD was not only the Cavs' longest of the season, but more than the team's leading rusher, Simpson, had amassed in any single game to date. This is a major leap forward, to say the least.
Or, you can look at every ounce of available evidence prior to Saturday, move Ralph Friedgen right back into one very heavily-fortified hot seat and settle into the idea of Maryland as the most schizo team in the country. The Terps haven't just lost to Middle Tennessee and hopeless Virginia on either side of upsets over top 20 outfits from California and Clemson -- they've been embarrassed. Look at the Cavs' first three games against I-A competition: 45-point loss to USC, 35-point loss to UConn, 28-point loss to Duke. A "turnaround" on UVA's part might account for a close loss to Maryland, or a close win. A 31-0 whitewash on the heels of those disasters is a wholesale collapse by the Terps, their second in under a month, just when it looked like they were pulling things together.
On one level, this is so very, very Maryland; even after the Cal and Clemson wins, I wrote last week: "[A]nother Middle Tennessee is lurking somewhere in there ... As stunning as three wins in a row would have sounded three weeks ago, an eminent losing skid seems about as likely." But getting blanked by a lame duck coming off a 31-3 loss to Duke? Freud couldn't diagnose that in a thousand years (although Dr. Lou might, in his ever-prescient maxim, "You coach a different team every week").
I guess Wake Forest is on "upset alert" in College Park in two weeks? That would make about as much sense as anything else involving Maryland.