I spent the last week on a cruise, and while I should've been enjoying a week-long vacation, deep down inside I was eagerly anticipating the kickoff of college football. Even though Maryland was playing against a former I-AA team this past Saturday, I had high hopes of the Terps running up the score thanks to the arrival of new offensive coordinator James Franklin. In retrospect, I should've just relished swimming in the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean rather than countdown the days the Terrapins would put up a mere 14 points against Delaware, and even more sadly, win by just one score.
The Good: The Running Game, Offensive Line, Secondary
Let's start off with the high points of last Saturday's 14-7 victory. Running back Da'Rel Scott made his first career start with the Terps and did not disappoint. The speedster from Pennsylvania nearly netted 200 yards with the heavily experienced line providing many holes for the redshirt sophomore. He seemed to lack that second gear that made him so explosive in games last year but he'll have plenty of time to demonstrate his dangerous speed throughout the season.
The most pleasant surprise of the day was the debut of true freshman Davin Meggett, son of former Giants running back David Meggett. Meggett kicked off his college career with 52 yards on the ground and a touchdown. He should be one to watch as the season progresses. With one of the best offensive lines in the entire conference in front of them, Maryland's running back situation seems steady if not promising.
The secondary received an upgrade this season when Terrell Skinner took over the free safety position vacated by longtime starter JJ Justice. Skinner looked very impressive in his first game as a starter as he was all over the field. Not only did he net six tackles and breakup a pass, but the Florida native caught a crucial interception during a Delaware drive in the fourth quarter to seal the game for the Terps.
The Bad: Quarterback Situation, Defensive Line, Kicking Game
It looks like the quarterback controversy ravages on in College Park after Steffy, who was named the starter two weeks before kickoff amidst frustration from the Maryland fanbase, played poorly in front of an impatient crowd at Byrd Stadium. The fifth year senior completed 10 of his 18 attempts, threw two picks, and was sacked for a loss.
Chants of backup QB Chris Turner were audible on the ESPN broadcast while fans watched Steffy struggle on the field either by dumping off passes or getting a case of happy feet. Turner eventually entered the game in the fourth quarter after Steffy suffered a supposed thumb injury. Needless to say, I expect Turner to start at Middle Tennessee State after Friedgen stated he didn't know who his QB would be for next Saturday.
Speaking of quarterbacks, highly touted junior Josh Portis finally saw the field Saturday in limited action where he rushed for 10 yards after four snaps. Unfortunately, Portis did not play a complete set of downs against Delaware but I expect the coaches to do more with Portis' athleticism as the season continues since the Florida transfer hasn't seen action in nearly three years.
The defensive line also appeared a little shaky against the Blue Hens. Dre Moore's absence at defensive tackle was notably felt but Jeremy Navarre, who was moved from defensive end to tackle starting this season, played admirably with six tackles. The Terps are very thin depth-wise at D-Line and it's only a matter of time when talented but inexperienced redshirt freshmen AJ Francis and Dion Armstrong will see the field.
Besides the unimpressive offense, kicker Obi Egekeze was one of the biggest disappointments of last Saturday's game. The senior kicker missed all three of his attempts (41, 44, 48 yards) which kept the game a little too close. Fridge isn't panicking yet despite Saturday's results and expects Obi to regain his confidence especially after a solid 2007 campaign.
Coming Up: Middle Tennessee State
The Terps always seem to start off slow early in the season and their visit to Murfreesboro should be no exception. This is a trap game on paper but the emergence of Scott and Meggett should quell those fears. Add Turner to the mix with a dash of Portis and you have yourselves an intriguing offense. Given the play-calling of the Delaware game, expect another low-scoring affair with Maryland pulling out the win in the end. Let's hope Franklin opens up the playbook a little more with this one before taking on Cal at home on the 13th.