The good and the bad from the Terps' 34-20 win over Syracuse

September 21, 2014|By Matt Zenitz | Baltimore Sun Media Group

Maryland came away with a 34-20 road win over Syracuse on Saturday afternoon. Here is what went well and what didn’t from a Terps perspective.

THE GOOD

The offense during the first half

For a half, Maryland’s offense looked like the unit the Terps believe this is capable of being. Maryland had six first-half possessions. Four produced points. Three ended with touchdowns.

Quarterback C.J. Brown missed on a potential long touchdown to wide receiver Stefon Diggs on the Terps’ third drive and then again on another chance to wide receiver Deon Long later, but Brown had a nice 25-yard touchdown pass early. Running back Brandon Ross took a screen pass 90 yards for a touchdown, and Maryland got some big plays from wide receiver Marcus Leak and running back-turned-wide receiver Jacquille Veii.

The Terps were held without a point for most of the second half, but the offense put up 24 points and 276 yards in the first half.

“We came out and started strong,” Brown said. “We didn’t finish strong. But I feel like each game we’ve improved offensively and are just trying to build on that.”

Special teams

Safety Anthony Nixon blocked a punt to help set up Maryland’s third touchdown. Kicker Brad Craddock was 2-for-2 on field goals, and punter Nate Renfro averaged close to 45 yards per punt, had just one touchback and had three of his seven punts downed inside Syracuse’s 20-yard line.

The Terps did allow a 13-yard punt return early and then a 22-yard punt return that was made worse by a personal foul on Maryland that tacked on 15 yards. But Maryland did limit the Orange to an average of just 19.5 yards per kick return.

The Terps’ special teams could be impacted, though, by the injuries Maryland is dealing with. As injuries continue to mount, special teams players could step into bigger roles on either offense or defense, which could lessen their effectiveness on special teams or lead coaches to taking them off special teams altogether and replacing them with players who are probably not as good.

Either way, the special teams play was good for the most part Saturday.

Wide receivers Marcus Leak and Jacquille Veii

Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are probably two of the more talented wide receivers in the Big Ten. But Leak has proven to be a capable third option in the Terps’ passing game.

He had three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns against South Florida on Sept. 6, and he had four catches for 93 yards and a touchdown Saturday, including a 46-yard catch on a 50-50 ball down the field.

As for Veii, he has become Maryland’s Swiss Army Knife. He lines up at wide receiver, plays on special teams and is now seeing time at running back in certain packages.

Veii did not have any catches Saturday, but he ran for a team-high 42 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. He also had a 20-yard kick return.

Will Likely

Diggs is probably the Terps’ biggest playmaker on offense. But Likely is establishing himself as one of Maryland’s most important players on defense.

Likely is a difference-maker on special teams, too. But against Syracuse, he twice had tight coverage to help force incompletions on third down, and he provided what coach Randy Edsall described as the game’s turning point, an interception late in the first half that he returned 88 yards for a touchdown to push Maryland’s lead to 31-13.

Likely also did not stick out in coverage for any negative reasons.

In the Terps’ four games, Likely is third on the team with 27 tackles, has three tackles for a loss, a sack, five pass deflections, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

He is also averaging 27.5 yards per punt return and had a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown against West Virginia on Sept. 13.

The pass defense

Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt finished with 210 passing yards, but 35 came on a late drive after the game was already out of reach for the Orange.

Excluding that late drive, Hunt was just 11 of 25 for a modest 175 yards with no touchdown passes and an interception.

Maryland may be without starting cornerback Alvin Hill for a period of time, as Hill injured his leg during the game and was on crutches afterward.

But Likely appeared to have a good day in coverage Saturday. So did nickel back Jeremiah Johnson, who will step into a starting role if Hill is sidelined. Johnson had a nice pass break-up during the second half.

THE BAD

Injuries

Maryland lost two more starters to injury Saturday — tight end Andrew Isaacs and Hill.

Isaacs will miss the rest of the season after dislocating his knee, and it is unclear how much time, if any, Hill will miss.

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