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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Notes from the Bucknell Blowout

In case you missed it, the Maryland men found success in their first game of the season. They shot down the Bucknell Bison convincingly, winning 81-52.

It highlighted some of the ideas I talked about in the preview, but solidified some other issues I wondered about before everyone was healthy and on the floor. I'm going to approach this with the mindset that there is no "bad" stuff, just "not-so-good" stuff.


- Landon Milbourne and Cliff Tucker had great games. Milbourne led the team with 16 points on 5 of 9 shooting. He made all of his free throws and didn't turn the ball over once. Tucker had 14 points and 5 rebounds, plus he dazzled with 2 picked pockets that just created a whole lot of excitement. Adrian Bowie deserves at least an honorable mention for a 12 point game with 3 dishes and 2 steals when Eric Hayes got in some foul trouble.

- Only 11 turnovers in this game. That's the kind of basketball the Terps will need to play to win the nailbiters.

- Bucknell was held to 31.7 percent shooting and only 18.8 percent from long range. They shot less than 50 percent on free throws, which might happily be attributable to the crowd. Overall, they put up brick after brick. Maryland had good defensive rebounding, particularly from some unexpected characters: Braxton Dupree, Dino Gregory and Dave Neal each had 6 boards.

- You had to be there because it doesn't show up in the stats: Sean Mosley looked very solid. He only made one of his 5 shots, but he dished out 4 assists, grabbed 4 rebounds and only had one turnover. Furthermore, he looked pretty passable on defense for a debut game, and he seemed to have the maturity of an older player. Mosley carries himself diffently than other rookies, and he moves and passes with confidence. Definitely look for him to earn some minutes in conference play.


- Overall, Greivis Vasquez had a great game. I want to make that clear: 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists to go with a single turnover is friggin' great for any point guard. However, he's a leader, so he's held to a higher standard. His shooting was absolutely abysmal - 5 for 16 is just not good. It's frustrating to watch a talented player try to do it all. Greivis will drive into the lane, but instead of passing out, he'll try a hook shot 5 feet away from the hoop against two bigger guys. Those shots NEVER drop. I think his biggest problem is he goes for the big play rather than the easy play, and that's not a quality you want a point guard to have. He's the best player, but one thing he needs to learn how to do is simplify. If you don't have a good shot, don't frickin' shoot.

- The fact that our rebounding came from bench players is a little alarming, because that won't be the case in more competitive games when opponents are more physically imposing and will dominate Neal and Gregory. Neal really was the surprise of the night, but he's not going to go up against 6'8 non-athletic centers in the ACC who don't have post moves. The ACC frontcourt will be far more physically dominant than Bucknell, and the rebounding margin in this game was only three total. Where's Jerome Burney? Asleep? He managed only two rebounds and one block with no points in 10 minutes. He's sinking on the depth chart even though he could be the most athletic big we have. Gregory could be on the rise with some of his gutsy play the other night.

- People who weren't bad but didn't do all that much or not enough to leave an impression: Hayes, Jin Soo Kim, and Steve Goins (who hardly played at all).

We'll see what happens tonight to further test these observations.

Go Terps!

EXTRA: Forward James Padgett has officially signed with the Terps for next year. Welcome to the family!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Essential Maryland Terrapins Preview

Here we are, folks - on the edge of another basketball season.

We all love the pigskin, we really do. But basketball is where it's at. There's no feeling like gathering together inside the Comcast Center, screaming your lungs out while watching the fast break across court end with a hellacious dunk. Admit it, Terp fans. When the Fridge gets a ring, maybe we'll think about switching religions.

So how is basketball stacking up this year? Prepare to find out tonight when the Terps take on Bucknell in the first matchup of the season. Meanwhile, let's take a look a little further into the season:

THE LOWDOWN: This year, we're going to find out how quickly the youth can grow up. While junior backcourt mates Eric Hayes and Greivis "Gravy" Vasquez have logged enough minutes in the last two seasons to be considered veterans, the key to Maryland's success will rest in the hands of guys like Cliff Tucker, Braxton Dupree, Adrian Bowie and Jerome Burney. And you know even Sean Mosley and Jin Soo Kim, two brand-spankin-new guys will get their shots (literally). Greivis is undoubtedly the leader, but he can't try too hard to win by himself - it was his downfall last year. Lots of scoring from different players and trying to limit turnovers will be how this team wins games. Interior offense and defense could be huge concerns.

THE STARS: No matter how much he's hated by his own fans, Greivis Vasquez can single-handedly compel his team to win or fail miserably. Therefore he's the leader. He had some amazing statistics last year: 17 ppg, 6.8 apg, 5.7 rpg and even posted a respectable assist-to-turnover ratio (1.55) despite perception that he couldn't hold onto the ball for beans. True, he gives away turnovers, but he's probably the best point guard in the conference, not to mention among the best in the country. Appreciate him. However, Vasquez's greatest problem has been trying to do it all. His shooting percentages aren't that great, and he could fluxuate wildly with his shooting and how he controlled tempo of the game. He sometimes sees opportunities that aren't there when he gets anxious, so he'll have to learn how to control his impulses.

Eric Hayes is probably a starter at shooting guard or point guard (it's really up to whatever Gary wants to do) and hopefully will actually provide his much-ballyhooed outside shooting. His defense is relatively weak around the perimeter and he has trouble creating his own shot. With the rise of sophomore Adrian Bowie, Hayes will have to really perform better than he did last year. Hayes' fan base should pray his foot injury has healed since last year. However, even off the bench, he can still provide this team with pinpoint passing and consistent shooting, especially if he can weasel his way to the foul line more often.

Junior Landon Milbourne was a solid contributor (8.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg) last year if an unspectacular one. This year will be different because he'll actually get starter minutes, possibly as many as 30 per game. Add that idea to the fact his shooting and strength have improved, we're looking at a core player for this team who will hopefully gain consistency that caught on toward the end of last season. There's talk he'll start at the 4-spot in place of a bigger guy to make up for the lack of skill at that position and clear some of the crowded backcourt. If Gary chooses to do this, Milbourne will probably end up with about 13-14 ppg and 6-7 rpg. He's not as vocal as GV, but he can lead the team with improved play.

ON THE RISE: Adrian Bowie has got to be mentioned first. He captured the imagination of Terp fans last year when he showed his ability to steal and drive against bigger guards. This year, it appears Bowie's shooting is better from three and he's as quick as ever. Although Gary is loyal to a fault to his upperclassmen, I can't see a scenario with things going as they currently are where Bowie doesn't eventually eclipse Hayes in the starting lineup (unless the lineup is Bowie, Hayes, Vasquez at 1, 2, and 3).

Sophomore Cliff Tucker similarly has more confidence and is moving better with the ball. His size and speed combo will make him a great wing threat this year. Depending on Milbourne's starting position, he might make the starting roster at the 3-spot. The question is can he guard and improve his rebounding? That's going to be the weak spots of this team, and if he can do those things, he'll fill an area of great need and carve himself an integral place in this squad.

QUESTION MARKS: Let's go with every big man on the Maryland roster. Sophomore Braxton Dupree looks like he might win the starting center job by virtue of being the best offensive player in the crowd and hustling harder this year. However, he still lacks the athleticism you want to see in a scoring big man and his defense is a liability. Redshirt sophomore Jerome Burney could establish himself as heir to the Rejection Throne that James Gist left behind at graduation. However, he doesn't rebound consistently enough for a man with his size and sheer athleticism, and you would definitely love to see him score more than two points (on free throws) against friggin' Northwood University. Dino Gregory and Dave Neal don't really look like they're going to do much, and frosh giant Steve Goins is too far away from being court-ready.

Please consider this: James Gist and Bambale Osby averaged a combined 27.4 ppg, 14.4 rpg, and were the second- and third-best blockers in the ACC. Do you believe for a second this group of FIVE post players can replicate or replace those numbers this year? Milbourne might still give this group some juice, but as things are, it's not overly impressive. Can they step it up enough to at least win?

FABULOUS FRESHMEN: Sean Mosley and Jin Soo Kim, despite high school highlights or anything anyone might have seen in any sort of exhibition game, remain mostly unknown quantities. As much as fans have speculated Mosley could be a starter this year, I'd say it's doubtful given Gary's history of playing upperclassmen who have been in the system. As excited as I am personally about Kim's sensational debut, he still has a lot left to prove, not the least of which he won't injured against 230-240 lb. guys his height. They are special, and I would guess that at the very least they'll see about eight minutes each, but there are a lot of people Gary needs to give time to in the backcourt, and time can stretch thin. Also, these guys are surefire scorers, but how well can they defend? The best defenders will get the most minutes this year - everyone back there can score.

THE STRENGTHS: Guards and small forwards... offensively. We have quick athletes who can actually shoot better this year. Many of the young'uns from last year have improved confidence and will be able to take on greater responsibility. I can see about 50-60 ppg coming from this group as the year goes on, and Maryland could be one of the top scoring teams in the ACC this year if they can come up with a good mix of slashing and shooting. Between the hard drives and the threes (not to mention free throw shooting which was outstanding last game), there's a scoring machine lying in wait.

THE WEAKNESSES: Interior scoring and general defense. Let's face it. We're missing Gist and Boom like the Dickens. Gilchrist's transfer (and arguably Shane Walker's) really hurt us. There is no one who will fill the center/power forward roles who can definitely score with a variety of post moves. Dupree and Neal have limitations, and everyone else is fairly raw. Kim might see some minutes here, and he can score, but he might not, either. Plus, who's going to be the main blocker? Burney? He can do it... but he needs to actually DO it.

Also last year, the perimeter was like a sinkhole for quick guards and forwards. We were torched by Eric Maynor, Sean Singletary, Jonny Flynn and DeMarcus Nelson. Hell, we were torched by crappy fast guards too, like American's Derrick Mercer. Hayes and Vasquez are still presumed starters, so it's up to them to shore up the outside. There is absolutely no (NONE) chance of success if the back three are opening up the gates too often for drives to the hoop. The only way we can hope to win is make opposing offenses one dimensional and force them to work harder to get inside where the really weak spots are. A porous perimeter that leads into a toothless inside D won't get us anywhere, even if we average 80 ppg.

OUTLOOK: To put it briefly, we'll be lucky to make it to the NCAA Tournament.

But you never know for sure. There could still be some surprises. We'll start finding out tonight.

Go Terps!

Photos courtesy of baltimoresun.com.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Rising Stars in Terp Basketball

So it's been pretty hard to get out of the negatives when it comes to Men's Basketball at the University of Maryland. However, the team gave the fans some hope today in a 104-60 win over Northwood.

Yes, OK, it was an exhibition against a crappy, crappy team. But still, the Terps operated well and executed their plays, as well as hustled hard for rebounds and tough points. If you didn't come out this afternoon, you missed a good one.

Gary Williams had to put the Terps' reputation of "playing down" to competition to bed, and they did that and more, scoring an epic 104 points on a remarkable 50.7% FG percentage as opposed to the 75 points last year against Concordia and 86 points (in just an 11-point win) against Carleton in previous exhibitions in previous years. It was a dominant offensive statement, and fans might have that to look forward to.

From my observations at today's game, here are the guys that are going to be shaping basketball this season:

-LANDON MILBOURNE: If there's one player I would bet my butter on for taking the next step this year, it's gotta be No. 1. Landon Milbourne is a hustler and a leader on the court. He's not a star, but he looked very solid today, and his game is very versatile inside and outside. He has the ability to shoot well, but also bangs with bigger guys, sort of Booth-like if you will (not to say he's close to that good). He'll be a starter at the 3 or the 4 spot, and I guarantee you, he'll hold it down. I'd predict 12 or 13 ppg and 6 rpg for the season. A solid contributor.

- ADRIAN BOWIE: I underestimated him last year, and he made me look like a fool for ever doing so. On Saturday, he showed a new dimension beyond his speed, slashing and hustle - his improved shooting. Last year, both he and Cliff Tucker pretty much refused to shoot from outside the arc, like they didn't have confidence in their 3-point game. That's changed. He was 2-for-3 today on the outside and 6-for-7 total with 16 points. He wasn't shaking the world with his ballhandling and when he was called to be a point guard, but he didn't mess up either, with only one turnover during the game. Bowie won't start to begin the season, but he could easily eclipse Eric Hayes if he uses his minutes effectively.

- BRAXTON DUPREE: The big guy still has issues, but he definitely will see a bigger role this year. First of all, he lost 25 lbs. which goes a long way into improving his hops and endurance. Perhaps as an effect of that weight loss, he's hustling more and getting extra boards, even over bigger guys. Today he had 8 points and 8 rebounds in 20 minutes, but he needs to improve his shooting percentage and turnover rate, but whether he's ready or not, he's probably the starter at center given he's the best offensive threat. How long he keeps that job is up to him. Jerome Burney and possibly Steve Goins (who is actually just a giant) wait in the wings to take the spot if he can't hold onto it.

- JIN SOO KIM: Anyone who was at the game knows what the crzae is all about. The freshman, who wasn't even eligible until this week, had 18 points in the second half and finished with 20 points total in only 20 minutes. He was nothing short of sensational. He didn't have amazing shooting numbers, but he wasn't afraid to shoot. He isn't big, but he was hitting the post hard and getting fouls (he made 7-of-8 at the line). He came up with 3 hard rebounds against 6'10 guys and 7-footers. The Terps were even calling backdoor passes for him in the second half. As a disclaimer, I'm personally excited because he's the first Korean-born basketball player in Division I. As a part-Asian, I feel exhilarated by his gritty play that's going to be erasing some stereotypes about Asian basketball player - namely that they're soft and not as competitive as American players. Anyone who watched Kim will tell you he was as determined to win as anybody on the court.

Now all that said, here's where we're lacking: post scoring and defense. Although Maryland held the Northwood Seahawks to ridiculously low shooting percentages, there were some pretty bad blown coverages on the perimeter, and only 2 blocks from post players from the best-blocking team in the ACC last year. You wish like hell Gist and Boom hadn't left when you see how the backcourt and small forwards have improved. But we have what we have (Dupree, Burney, Neal and Goins), and we're going to have to pray that they suprise rather than disappoint.

Overall, I saw positive things in the Terps' first action on the court this season. Be there to see how they fare against Bucknell this week!

Go Terps!

Photos courtesy of baltimoresun.com.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This Blog is a Lie

As many of my readers felt it necessary to point out, I'm a big, fat phony.

This past Saturday, it did rain in College Park. A lot. I know. I was there. My clothes are sitting in the basement next to a dehumidifier and I'm praying they don't grow mold. So sue me. Or do something constructive and think of another name for this blog.

The game itself was fairly good. Lots of running, lots of gritty play and mud - everything you want in a rainy football game. Plus, it was a win for the Terps, as they beat N.C. State with a last second field goal, 27-24.

I found it a little disappointing Maryland couldn't clobber the Wolfpack like the crappy team they are. Freshman quarterback Russell Wilson found plenty of room to run for 53 yards, and frankly, most of the time he made the Terp defense look slow. They gave up 155 rushing yards and 187 yards through the air. Luckily for them, the Wolfpack defense was worse.

Da'Rel Scott tore through like a tornado for 163 yards and a TD. Davin Meggett (who appears to be generating his own fan base) ran for a tough 34 yards and a TD carry, plus a 31-yard reception to set up the game-winning score. Honorable mention also includes tight end Dan Gronkowski, who managed three catches for 37 yards and a TD in unfavorable passing conditions. He's been a relatively consistent performer on a team bereft of consistent performers.

A win is a win, no? And even moreso, this win sets up a Terps bowl appearance and puts us in the lead for the Atlantic Division. Yeah girl.

Maryland has a real shot at winning this division, but the schedule doesn't exactly favor it. A victory over Virginia Tech next Thursday is doable, but not altogether likely. Beyond that, North Carolina and Florida State are tough games, but they will be at home. Boston College is winnable game on the road, and the Eagles always choke toward the end of the season. After that, the ACC championship.

Two wins and two losses seem reasonable to end this year, but three wins and one loss? That's potentially an ACC championship berth, depending on who loses and who gets tiebreakers.

So in short, this win puts the now-No. 25 Terrapins in terrific position for real success this season (as opposed to the fake success of the last few years). Even though it doesn't feel like a strong team and the defense is next to last in almost every category, Fridge now has some of the pressure off of him to be bowl eligible and he can focus on winning rather than saving his job (for once).

Potentially, this is a good team, it just remains to be whether or not they can live up to their billing in the tough games ahead.

Photos by Adam Fried

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dominant Defense Downs Demon Deacons

Before we start: Note the alliteration in the post title.

Moving on.

Unless you were hiding under a rock, you probably heard the Terps absolutely crushing No. 21 Wake Forest last Saturday, 26-0. Grinding offense, stifling defense, another upset victory... shocking, right?

Weeeellllllllll, I don't know. I mean, isn't this kind of typical of the Terps? Win a game against a ranked team at home? Besides, it was only a matter of time before Wake started losing conference games: Last week, they only won against Clemson because of a fourth-quarter touchdown. Their offense has only scored 24 points in three ACC games. Definitely underwhelming for a ranked team. In addition, their receiving corps was so terrible, it made you wonder what else Wake could be doing with the money it takes to give those players scholarships.

I'm not hating on what the Terps did by any means, though. It was a spectacular performance. Chris Turner threw for 321 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. OC James Franklin apparently heard something about this Darrius Heyward-Bey guy, because they actually threw to him yesterday. He ended up with a career-high 11 catches for 101 yards and a TD. The defense combined for four sacks and the front seven held the Demon Deacon offense to 73 net yards rushing.

So, what can the Terps against a really terrible N.C. State team to not have another letdown UVA style? Well, keep it going - in more ways than one.

1) Keep up the stiff defense and rolling offense and the five-game winning streak at home.

2) Keep up the recent ownage of the Wolfpack. Maryland has won 6 out of the last 8 in this match up. I know it's hard to remember, but Maryland did have bigger victory than Wake Forest last year. They stomped N.C. State 37-0 to become bowl eligible.

It should be a good one, but considering Maryland killed a weak team like Eastern Michigan at home, and considering we routinely own N.C. State, I'm going to predict a victory.

Back me up, Terps.

Photos by Adam Fried

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A word from Governor Palin

Governor Palin, could you please explain how the Terps lost 31-0 to the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday?

Ok, we'll wait for you to get back to us. In the meantime, let's all try to forget this ever, ever, ever happened. It looks like Chris Turner is ready to forget.

Also, does anyone have a comment about this photo:

Let's have a funny caption contest. That will cheer everybody up...

Photos courtesy of baltimoresun.com

Saturday, October 4, 2008

On the frontlines at DeMatha v. Good Counsel

This Thursday, I attended the nationally televised high school football game between No. 10 DeMatha and No. 2 Good Counsel. I wrote this story for class:

Last night’s game between Washington-area powerhouses No. 10 DeMatha and No. 2 Our Lady of Good Counsel was sold out. The match was broadcast to a national audience on ESPN2. Recruiters from Penn State, Maryland and Syracuse showed up among other big names. Thousands showed up to the small school in Olney, Md., to watch titans clash.

However, the Good Counsel Falcons (5-0) took the air out of the much-ballyhooed contest in the first quarter by scoring 28 unanswered points on their way to knocking off the overmatched Stags, 42-21.

“I think we stepped up,” said senior running back Caleb Porzel, who finished the night with 124 yards and three touchdowns. “We showed ourselves and the nation that we can hang with anyone – we should be a nationally-ranked premier team.”

DeMatha (3-2) looked virtually helpless as its defense was shredded by Porzel’s blazing speed for touchdown runs of seven, 38 and 56 yards. Added to a touchdown off of a senior linebacker Jelani Jenkins fumble recovery, the Stags found themselves mired in a four-score deficit less than 13 minutes into the game.

If not for a miraculous 61-yard touchdown pass from Tom Chroniger to Emmanuel McPhearson in coverage midway through the second quarter, DeMatha would’ve been held scoreless in the first half entirely by a sturdy, Jenkins-led Falcons defense.

Two more touchdowns in the third quarter gave the DeMatha squad some momentum. Chroniger had a 15-yard rush for a score and found Lewis Young in the end zone with a 10-yard pass within a six-minute stretch.

But during the ensuing possession on fourth down, the Falcons faked a punt and kicker Mark Hamilton ran for 21 yards and earned 15 extra yards on a facemask penalty against DeMatha. The drive was capped by Jenkins running untouched into the end zone six plays later.

DeMatha missed another score by the slimmest of margins: Receiver Jeff Knox was stopped after a catch on the one yard line with 1:47 left in the game on fourth down. But even a touchdown would’ve been futile at that point.

It was a disappointment for the defending WCAC-champion Stags, who find themselves looking up in the division for one of the first times in a while.

“We just didn't come out and play our game today,” Chroniger said. “We didn't make a pass, I didn’t throw it right, just small things. You come out without intensity, it's hard to beat somebody."

Although Porzel was bothered during the game by calf cramps and coming off an ankle injury, his injury concerns didn’t prevent him from shining in the national spotlight, even beyond the shadow of top-10 prospect and teammate Jenkins.

“It was kind of a mental thing for me,” Porzel said. “I was kind of scared at one point, but once I hit the first touchdown, I was like ‘this is going to be a good night for us.’”

For DeMatha, by the end of the first half, the game became less about winning and more about having self-respect.

"We came out a little flat in the first half, and I felt our priority was to keep our heads in it,” DeMatha senior tight end Jeremiah Mathis said. “I felt like we came back out in the second half and we fought. If there was anything that we needed to do in the second half, it was fight for it.”

The two teams have made a habit of meeting in the WCAC championship. Good Counsel senior quarterback Tyler Campbell, who completed all of his seven passes for 177 yards, said he had witnessed the last two championship losses to DeMatha, and although he savored the revenge, he acknowledged it’s not over.

“I can’t tell you how badly we want to win a championship this year,” Campbell, a senior, said. “We beat them last year in the regular season, but they beat us in the championship. We want to win it this year.”

The rival teams always seem to be looking ahead to the next matchup between the two schools. DeMatha receiver Michael Milburn was already thinking about it after the loss.

“If we play ‘em in the postseason, we’ll get ‘em,” he said.

Tell me what you think. For a REALLY great story, read Josh Barr's recap. I'm an amateur, but he shows himself to be the pro in this story.

Also, some notes:

- Porzel is as fast as anyone, but you can't help but notice he's probably 5'5 or 5'6. At Maryland, he'll probably return kicks, but we'll have to see if he grows.
- Jenkins is an absolute manbeast. He was a dominant force on defense. You can see why the schools want him. His speed and power were on display as starting fullback as well. I think he's well outside of Maryland's league.
- Fridge was at the game. Whether he was looking for new recruits or trying to hang on to the ones he is up for debate.
- Some receivers on DeMatha actually looked very good. Milburn has great size and leaping ability and McPhearson just tore through the middle. They both could've shown softer hands at times, though, and drops were actually a big factor in the game.

Signing off...

Photos from gazette.net, rivals.com

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Also, you should probably know...

Maryland got their first 2009 commitment for basketball, assuming of course that Jin Soo Kim is considered eligible for this fall.

James Padgett, a 6'7 power forward out of New Yawk, chose the Terps over West Virginia, Pitt, Tennessee, St. John's and Florida, so that's a nice pool to be picked from!

As always, Matt Bracken of baltimoresun.com sports has the scoop on the Brooklyn big man:

Padgett averaged a double-double as a junior (“probably 11 and 10,” [coach Dwayne] Morton said), helping Lincoln to the New York State Class AA Federation Championship. He stood out on a guard-oriented offense (led by five-star shooting guard Lance Stephenson), giving the Railsplitters a much-needed presence in the middle.

His role, Morton said, was to rebound, contribute put-backs and play tough defense. That unselfish play as a junior, and during the summer on Morton’s AAU team, the Juice All-Stars, convinced Morton that Padgett had a bright future. Morton said Maryland’s a good place for him to realize his potential and continue his development.

And so on and so forth.

Inside presence is the name of the game right now for the Terps, and they need size like no other. Padgett is a good add. A four-star athlete on Scout.com and a three-star guy on Rivals, he's a project player (like we haven't had many of those in recent years) with high rebounding and defensive skills, but little variety on offense. According to scouting reports, he needs to develop a post face-up game (meaning facing his defender and the basket, for basketball tenderfoots). He might grow a little extra for all we know as well, maybe stretch to 6'8.

So Maryland frontcourt guys in 2009 include 6'10 Steve Goins, 6'9 Jerome Burney, 6'8 Kim, 6'8 Braxton Dupree, 6'7 Dino Gregory, 6'7 Padgett and 6'6 Cliff Tucker. That ain't tooooooo bad, but gosh, wouldn't you just love to bag a top-25 6'11 guy sometime? Just one?

The one obvious thing this post lineup lacks is offense. Last year, all the people I just mentioned averaged a whopping 9.3 ppg for the Terps. The incoming players that will play this season or next aren't necessarily known for their offensive prowess (besides Kim, who is more of an outside shooter anyway). Dupree was known as a scorer in high school, but thus far hasn't been able to show it (although it appears he may have shed weight, which will go a long way).

So the pickup? Overall good, but it doesn't seem to address our main problems. Sooner or later, we'll have to find a big guy that can score.

Photos courtesy of rivals.com, baltimoresun.com sports.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A True Test

Clemson came very, very close, but they just couldn't beat the Terps.

You could see the frustration on the faces of Clemson fans as soon as Cullen Harper came up short on a QB sneak. I pitied them for a few brief moments before I realized that my team was going to win today.

I can understand their frustration - Clemson probably should've won today. They had more offense and more consistent defense. However, they coughed the ball up three times, and that won't win you anything. Sorry Tommy Bowden, you're just not going to have an easy week.

For their part, Maryland capitalized, capitalized and capitalized. They turned turnovers into points and basically did just enough to bag the win. One Chris Turner pass, one Da'Rel Scott run, and two Obi Egekeze field goals turned out to be just enough. Also, gotta shout out to Darrius Heyward-Bey for making what I consider to be one of the game-changing plays: a 76-yard reverse. I swear to God that reverses never ever work for any team I root for... unless it's Heyward-Bey, who somehow always makes at least a 30-yard gain out of those.

I love the win. It puts us at 4-1 (better than I would've expected this season thus far) and that much closer to bowl eligibility. Heck, it might be ambitious, but the Terps are certainly in the race for winning the Atlantic Division. So far, Maryland has only played one conference opponent so there's a long way to go, but it's feasible.

Next week is a good start: Maryland head to face the Virginia Cavaliers, who were just stomped by Duke of all teams, 31-3. Duke, by the way, wins its first ACC game in the last 26 attempts.

However, Jeff Barker notes in his Tracking the Terps blog that Ralph is not taking Virginia at all lightly, and considering the rivalry the two teams have built, that sounds like a sensible mentality. Virginia has bested the Terps in 12 of the past 16 matchups, which is kind of domination, or as my two new favorite bloggers would say, dominasian (yes that was an off-topic shoutout by the way).

Also, the injury report isn't looking good: Adrian Moten is out for awhile, and Danny Oquendo, Nolan Carroll, Scott and others are questionable.

But lets hope the Terps have enough juice to pull it out. To be honest with you, I think they do.

Photos by Adam Fried

Monday, September 22, 2008

Reality Check - Going to Death Valley

Don't get me wrong, I love to celebrate wins. I think it's great that we're 3-1, and that's really the best we could've hoped for in the first four weeks of our schedule. I think it's great that we just put up 51 points on Eastern Michigan. I think it's great that every College Park resident gets 12 free toppings on their pizza at Papa John's.

But just look on the schedule: Next up, Clemson. I hope that name makes you wince.

They crushed the Terps last year. They blighted them. At home, no less. It was a miserable game. I left at halftime. The final score of 30-17 didn't reflect how horrific the game was.

When thinking about going on the road against Clemson, the home pummeling of Eastern Michigan doesn't give me that much comfort. The Tigers are ranked No. 20 in the AP poll, and for good reason:

- They're scoring 34 points per game and only allow 15 points per game.
- They have the third-best red zone offense in the ACC.
- They have the second-best passing defense and fifth-best rushing defense in the conference.
- They have Cullen Harper, one of the most efficient passers in the ACC (and who kind of looks like a tool on the Clemson site), and James " I guarantee it" Davis and C.J. Spiller, two of the most explosive backs in the ACC.

I think the best way to react to the Maryland victory is to think about all the positive things we learned and apply it to how we can beat Clemson. So let's take a walk on the positive side...

- Maryland has the ACC's most efficient passer. No, it's not Chris Turner. No, it's not Josh Portis. Answer is: (dun dun dun) Danny Oquendo! All he does is throw 43-yard touchdown passes!

- Morgan Green is finally doing something. Green was spotted actually running into the end zone, not once, but twice! He finished with 40 yards on the day to go with his two scores. Now he only has to rush for 3,883 more yards and score 50 more touchdowns and he'll finally prove he was worth taking over Steve Slaton!

- Da'Rel Scott is still the ACC's leading rusher. Hilariously, he hasn't moved from the top spot after missing a week of work, and his YPG looks even better.

- Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a kicker. Obi Egekeze came out of a coma and went 3-for-3, shattering his season-high mark of zero field goals in a game.

Ok, ok, ok - I know none of those observations are helpful at all.

However, Maryland can beat Clemson. Da'Rel Scott is expected to return this week, and James Franklin seems to be getting a spark out of this offense. Between 51 points against Eastern Michigan and 35 points against Cal, there's promise here yet.

Turner did throw two interceptions this week, but also had two touchdown passes. Josh Portis once again didn't complete a pass, but he did rush for an astonishing 98 yards, which is more impressive when you consider teams know he can't throw the ball. The running game overall was still fantastic without Scott: 231 yards ain't bad at all, and we're still the second-best rushing team in the conference.

The biggest problems we face are on defense. The Terps are just giving up waaaaay too many passing yards. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley skinned us to a near-comeback, and the Eagles' Kyle McMahon still threw for over 275 yards, which is a good total by any standard.

The return of Terrell Skinner will help, but Kevin Barnes and company have to play some tight ball. Harper can toss the ball on a defense and at least keep them honest enough to set up the run. James Davis and the Clemson o-line will test Maryland's undersized front seven.

In order to be successful, the defense has to be able to penetrate the pocket. Against Cal, Maryland had five sacks. They'll need that kind of pressure again to really bring the heat to the hot-handed Harper. Should Clemson choose to run the ball straight at the defense, the Terp linemen and linebackers have to finish their tackles. If you allow James Davis and C.J. Spiller to run at your secondary, they will end you.

Really, there's little room for error in this ACC dogfight. The last two years, this has been a game for the road team, and Maryland will hope to keep that particular streak going on Saturday. Should they succeed, a national ranking might be in the works for a tough Terrapin team. Should they fail...

... well, let's not worry about it.

Photos courtesy of baltimoresun.com sports.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jin Soo Kim has arrived

I get star-struck. I really do. Sometimes when I see athletes, I know better, but I still feel kind of a rush, knowing that I'm going to be cheering for them at some point or will see them on TV. It's just kind of exciting.

I've worked to get over this, but I couldn't help myself yesterday afternoon in South Campus Dining Hall. There are reasons for this:

- I had written about this person, but I had never met him before.
- The person was not someone I was expecting to see on campus.
- This person was a 6-foot-9 Korean man in basketball warmups.

I knew immediately who it was: Jin Soo Kim, a small forward who hopes to play basketball this fall for the Maryland Terrapins. He's going to be the first Korean-born DI scholarship basketball player in the country.

Of course, I followed my immediate impulse to introduce myself, and the results were terribly awkward:

SCENE: SoCo Dining Hall

BLOGGER approaches KIM slowly and creepily.

BLOGGER: Hi, are you Jin Soo Kim?

KIM: Yes.

BLOGGER: Hi, I'm **********. I write a blog called It Never Rains in College Park. I've written about you!

KIM: Oh...

BLOGGER: Are you enjoying classes?

KIM: It's OK...

BLOGGER: That's good. Are you playing basketball this season?

KIM: I hope so.

BLOGGER: I hope so too! Nice to meet you!

KIM: Yeah...


So hopefully that gives you an idea of how awkward I am, but also, it should make you say, "Wait, why haven't I heard about this yet? I read INRCP religiously, so I've heard about the guy, but I didn't know he was coming this year."

The answer is you probably shouldn't know about it. Every news outlet is completely quiet because no one is talking about it: not Gary, not athletics, not anyone. He's unofficial so far. Maryland is still waiting to hear a ruling on his eligibility for this fall.

We might not know for some time whether Kim will be on the court this season, but he hopes so, I hope so, so if we all hope, maybe it'll happen.

If you need to jog your memory:

Go Terps!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Da'Rel Scott - Best Back in the ACC

When the season started, more than a few questions were raised about how the Terps running game would go on without the tag team of Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball that basically carried the Maryland offense on their shoulders in 2007.

Da'Rel Scott, a sophomore with blazing speed, had been a hero against Boston College the year before, but would he be able to do it with a full load of carries?

Although it was not a foolish question given the lack of evidence, it does seem rather foolish now: Da'Rel Scott is the ACC's leading rusher at week three. And he's leading by a lot.

Scott is averaging 135 yards per game. That's almost 50 YPG more than the guy behind him, Josh Nesbitt of Georgia Tech (who's the quarterback in a triple-option offense). Actually, he's the fifth-leading rusher in the country in YPG so far.

As a result, Maryland is fourth in the ACC in rushing, just six yards behind Virginia Tech's season total. That's fairly impressive considering that quarterback Chris Turner is immobile and Scott's backup is a true freshman.

Also, you have to consider that he only ran in half of last week's matchup against the Golden Bears. He had already had accrued 87 yards and two touchdowns. If Davin Meggett still went on to gain 82 yards in Scott's absence by running at defenders, imagine what Scott could've done with his speed and agility running around defenders. It's hard to doubt he would've easily gone over the century mark for the third week in a row.

This week against Eastern Michigan, Scott is questionable because of his shoulder injury (from the Cal game), but his running ability will be needed to set up the passing routes in James Franklin's offense. Meggett is serviceble, but no one confuses him for the guy that could take it to the house on any given hand off. Scott gets that kind of respect - he's the best back in the ACC (for now).

Photos by Adam Fried

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Terps Topple Golden Bears

So that's pretty crazy, right?

One week ago, let us recall that we were rehashing the Terps latest disappointing letdown against MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE. And today we beat... a No. 23-ranked Cal?


I don't know. Nobody knows. Not even the Schmuck. I'm not even going to pretend to understand how different this team looked today. I suppose you could attribute some of that to jet lag. You could say that Cal couldn't play defense. But you have to give the Terps some credit for an amazingly efficient offensive performance, and good defense for three quarters. Props as well to the fans who were dedicated enough to stay the whole game through the sunburn and dehydration (I wimped out early to be honest).

I mean, let's look at some areas of statistical weakness we talked about last week:

- Chris Turner bounced back from a three-interception performance last week with a 15-for-19 showing with 156 yards and two touchdown passes. Not stunning numbers, but the kind of numbers Maryland needs to complement their rushing game.

- The offensive line looked better, but Turner was still sacked four times. We need to improve in this area. But on rushing plays, the line was hitting their blocks very well against a seemingly toothless Cal defense.

- On the other side of the ball, the defensive front seven finally had some pressure... most of the game. The team had five sacks today, with two from Moise Fokou and one-and-a-half from Rick Costa. It was a big improvement from zero total sacks in the first two games. Beyond that, the line and the backers ate up the run. The Golden Bears finished with 38 rushing yards, the Terps had eight tackles-for-a-loss, and Dave Philistin had 13 total tackles. Like a champ.

- Obi Egekeze still stunk it up, to put it lightly. He missed a 27-yard attempt. Ugh. Right now, Obi is 0-for-5 on the season. I'm thinking about camping out on my roof until he does it. Anyone with me? Anyone?

The biggest problem is a classic Maryland characteristic: We have a hard time holding a commanding lead. The secondary was torched for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, which is simply inexcusable, and I expect Friedgen to say as much this upcoming week.

It was a problem last year against Boston College, and the Terps routinely come down to nail-biting finishes. The best teams in football take commanding leads and hold them. We need to play a full game. The offense did a great job of this, especially considering Da'Rel Scott went down for the game in the first half (he seemed OK at the end and was on the sidelines). The defense was blown away.

We'll see if perhaps Maryland treats Eastern Michigan the same way they treat Cal. EMU just lost to the Toledo Rockets and is currently 1-2, but I think a good lesson the Terps learned a week ago is to not take opponents lightly.

But today, way to go Terps, and good win!

UPDATE: Also, good hit Kevin Barnes! You know how when an announcer says that hit made him spit out his breakfast? Well...

Photos courtesy of baltimoresun.com.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Middle Tennessee State? Ouch...

The people have spoken: The blog is back. And we're talking Terps.


For those of you that don't follow too closely, Maryland was embarrased Saturday night by the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. Also for those of you who don't follow too closely, I don't blame you. Who wants to watch this team?

There are good points, but the bad news is that the two good points are only two players - Darrius Heyward-Bey (an 80-yard TD) and Da'Rel Scott (123 yards and a 63-yard TD).

The bad points are team problems:

- QUARTERBACK PLAY: Many Maryland students spent a lot of their time during the first three quarters of the Delaware game booing Jordan Steffy and calling openly for Chris Turner. First of all, I hate when people start chants against their own team, especially when it's about someone ON THE FIELD. Secondly, don't you feel foolish now? Turner showed an inability to make good throws on Saturday, but beyond that, he showed a shallow understanding of offensive plays by locking on to receivers with his eyes and forcing throws to receivers who weren't open. Hence, three interceptions for Sunshine.

Similarly, backup QB Josh Portis showed poor decision making by tucking and running Tavaris Jackson-style every time he had to stand in the pocket for more than one second.

This is speculation, but it seems as though the three-headed quarterback battle backfired. No one seems to know new coordinator James Franklin's playbook. This isn't going to correct itself before Maryland plays Cal this Saturday (and look what they did in their game this week).

- PASS BLOCKING: Perhaps I'm not being fair to the quarterbacks given that they had to scramble so often in the backfield. I'm referring to the fact that it seems as though our offensive line doesn't know how to block on passing downs. Any offensive lineman will tell you run blocking is much more "fun" because the big uglies can just run at the defense and push them out of the way, creating running lanes. So far, we've done well with this aspect. However, the tables turn when the O-Line is forced to stop pass rushers from getting to the QB. It's a much more difficult aspect of the game, one the Terps are not very good at.

The Blue Raiders racked up 3 sacks during the game. On one specific play, the defense bull-rushed Chris Turner (meaning they just charged trying to push the offensive line over). Three linemen missed their blocks almost completely, and Turner got taken out by a linebacker who was going one-on-one with either Edwin Williams or one of the guards. Not very good at all.

- PASS RUSH: On the other side of the ball, it's pretty sad when your D-I line can't manage a single sack at all against a mid-major opponent. It comes down to girth. Last year, Dre Moore (who went on to be drafted and subsequently cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) created an inside presence at least some of the time with his 305 lbs. Our best defensive tackle this year is Jeremy Navarre, who weighs 280 lbs and used to be a defensive end. Ick. I love Navarre's hustle and motor, but he isn't big enough to be the anchor in the Terps line, at least in the middle. We've recruited bigger bodies, but they're all probably a year away from seeing playing time.

In addition, the linebackers (Adrian Moten, Dave Philistin, etc.) seem unable to find the gaps in the blocking scheme or let QB Joe Craddock (doesn't he look kind of like a serial killer in the photo?) escape their grasp. Even against Delaware, Maryland didn't ring up one sack in the stat column. On the other hand, there were five tackles for a loss in the MTS game, so maybe some hope exists that the Terps can get more punch inside.

- OBI: Really? 0-for-4 on the season? Who misses 4 field goals in a row? I know Obi Egekeze is better than that, and he's really got a lot of leg, but hitting the crossbar multiple times is simply not acceptable, and the Terps don't have another suitable kicker on their roster (I believe...). Sooner or later, the Fridge is just going to go for it every 4th down, Tommy Bowden-style.

Big problems. Unfortunately for the Terps, the Golden Bears aren't going to wait for the Terps to be ready. It could be bloody when all is said and done on Saturday. I'm going to be there, but if I were Testudo, I would hide in my shell.

PERSONAL NOTE: Glad to be back, thanks for all the encouragement. In particular, I'd like to thank Viqui Dill, Karen Goldstein, Andrew Zuckerman, Melissa Weiss, Adam Fried, Kevin Robillard, Dewey Hammond and Jeff Amoros for specifically telling me to get off my butt and start the site back up.

Also, stay tuned for a possible URL change. The Terps may not be all that great right now, but I'll be here, typing away. Thanks a lot, loyal readers!

Photos courtesy of baltimoresun.com sports

Monday, July 21, 2008

Holy Crap, Go See Dark Knight

I try not to make ludicrous claims about movies. I don't think I generally buy into movie hype, especially those with the most hype of all: summer "blockbusters."

But if there's one movie that should be overblown this summer, without a doubt, it should be The Dark Knight.

The second film in the Christian Bale era is totally deserving of all its hype, unlike just about every superhero film ever. It's clear that the makers of the film sought to elevate the genre into something more than CG stunts and oversimplified central themes.

Let's talk about what separates DK from the rest of the pack:

- FULLY DEVELOPED CHARACTERS. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne was really given the most attention and detail. Most of the other people in the film believed in singular principles and more or less followed them. Not the case in Dark Knight. In fact, Batman seems to often take a backseat to other characters in the film - Harvey Dent, Commissioner Gordon, Rachel and even Alfred are pushed into difficult situations and face choices that make them seem more real. An emphasis on what the common person can do in the face of evil is prevalent throughout the film, making it more relatable.

- COMPLEX AND VARIED THEMES. One of the most annoying things about superhero films to me are how their scripts seem to want to beat you over the head with one singular lesson. Whenever I hear "with great power comes great responsibility," I want to scream. Even Batman Beginswas restricted by this universal code. However, Dark Knight probes a few different issues - not only the powerful justice v. mercy theme from the first installment, but also about the government's ability to maintain semblance of authority in chaos, personal desires v. civic duty and the burden of responsibility. There are a lot of layers in this film, and the character arcs are dynamic, creating fascinating case studies in any number of issues that great films ponder.

- HEATH LEDGER'S JOKER. I can't tell you enough how I'm not just saying this because Ledger died. I'm saying it because this version of the Joker is not only the greatest superhero villain ever, he ranks with great villain performances in all film, such as Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Bill the Butcher Cutting and other great ones. This is not the Heath Ledger you know and love, nor is it the Joker we're all familiar with. This Joker combines the sick madness of a Hannibal with the unstoppable energy of a Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers: He is disturbingly creative with his twisted calculations and you feel like he just can't be stopped, no matter what. I have a problem with the sadistic Saw movies, but I think this villain is a perfect balance of perversion and awe-striking power. He personifies anarchy, and he's more of a force of nature in the movie rather than a character. Best supporting actor without a doubt, and I don't even need to know who else is nominated.

Beyond length and some overly ambitious Batman gadgets, this movie has few flaws. They got rid of Katie Holmes, which was a dramatic improvement. Here and there, you might disagree with some of the logic of certain decisions, but overall, the choices are necessary to advance the plot.

The Dark Knight is more than just a great superhero film, it's a amazing drama as well. When I say it's deserving of an Oscar, I really mean it. Beyond the fantastic nature of some of the action, there's a load of really deep perspectives and ideas hidden in the relationships and choices characters make in this film. I would call it the Crash of the superhero genre, but I actually like this film more than Crash.

I don't care if you're waiting for it to go out on video: Don't wait. I don't care if you don't like superhero movies. Give it a chance. I don't care if you won't go because you don't want to go alone. I'll go with you. I'll even drive you there.

I went in expecting Batman Begins II, but Dark Knight is something wholly different. Hopefully, it will encourage filmmakers of the perennial superhero hits to aim high in areas other than profit.