Reeling Terps to Face Surging Golden Bears This Saturday

Brett GellmanCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2008

The Maryland Terrapins (1-1, 0-0 ACC) opted out of their annual rivalry against West Virginia for this year and next so that they could play a home and home series versus #23 California of the Pac-10 conference. 

Given that the Golden Bears (2-0, 1-0 Pac-10) just defeated Washington State 66-3 while West Virginia fell to East Carolina 24-3, the Terps probably wish they’d be facing the Mountaineers this Saturday instead. Oh, and let’s not forget that Maryland lost to Middle Tennessee State of all teams to top things off.

While the ACC continues to receive flack for how weak the conference is, the Terrapins did nothing but fuel the fire to the discussion as they were shockingly defeated by the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State 24-14 last Saturday in Murfreesboro.

The loss was hailed by media outlets and the fan base alike as the worst loss Maryland has endured under head coach Ralph Friedgen in his eight year tenure. 

The only other game that comes to mind which was as stunningly disappointing was a season-opening defeat to Northern Illinois back in 2003. However, that team featured star running back Michael Turner (who now starts for the Atlanta Falcons) and finished the season ranked in the Top 25.

The Blue Raiders, however, were picked to finish middle of the pack in the Sun Belt conference and only had 71 players on scholarship.

While Cal has averaged 52 points in its first two games of the season, the Terps have only scored 28 points total this season. Mismatch, anyone? Maryland’s lone win was against FCS opponent Delaware in the season opener, edging out the Blue Hens 14-7.  One could only imagine what would’ve happened if Joe Flacco (now starting for the Ravens) was still the quarterback for Delaware.

Bears running back Jahvid Best is Cal’s greatest offensive weapon and the Terrapins defense will have their hands full with the speedy sophomore.

Speaking of defense, the Maryland unit needs some work after they gave up 24 points to Middle Tennessee last week. The Blue Raiders spread offense and no-huddle schemes gave Maryland defensive coordinator Chris Cosh quite the headache. 

Unfortunately, they will be without starting free safety Terrell Skinner for 2-3 weeks due to a high ankle sprain. This loss will be notably felt as Skinner was perhaps one of Maryland’s best defensive players despite this being his first season as a starter.

On a more positive note, Terps running back Da’Rel Scott has excelled since taking over the starting position vacated by Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore. In just two games the redshirt sophomore has compiled 320 yards and two touchdowns.

Maryland’s running game is perhaps the team’s best offensive threat until the quarterback situation stabilizes. 

Fifth-year senior Jordan Steffy was initially named the starting QB amidst criticism from Terrapin fans, but after he tore ligaments in his thumb late in the game against Delaware, backup Chris Turner took over the spot.

Turner, who started eight games last season after Steffy went down earlier in the year due to a concussion, started against Middle Tennessee State last weekend and had a dreadful performance.

Turner completed only 13 of his 28 passes and threw three picks with only one TD.  Expect Florida transfer Josh Portis to split time with Turner against Cal as the athletic QB possesses unparalleled speed.

Another area which needs drastic improvement is the kicking unit.  Senior place kicker Obi Egekeze has missed all four of his attempts and needs to regain his confidence before the conference slate starts. 

Too bad hitting the crossbars doesn’t count as he’s been 3 for 4 on those.

Prediction: Well it’s going to be tough for the Terps to bounce back from a demoralizing loss to Middle Tennessee  State and face a Top-25 team with a surefire offense.

Turner needs to get the ball to Darius Heyward-Bey as much as possible. The junior wide receiver and preseason All-American is the Terps greatest asset and needs to get as many catches as he possibly can in order to stand a chance against Cal. 

After Saturday’s disaster, this writer just doesn’t see it happening. 

Cal 38-24.