Turner Needs to Keep the Switch On In Order for Terps Success

Brett GellmanCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2008

The Maryland Terrapins have been the epitome of inconsistency this college football season. 

Fall to lowly Middle Tennessee State, but bounce back against Cal?  Sure, why not? 

Get blanked by Virginia one week, but shutout Wake the next?  Um, OK. 

More than halfway through the season, the Terps stand at a humble 5-2 record.  It's those two losses, however, that are entirely perplexing. 

Most observers would think that those losses would've been from one of the three ranked opponents the Terps have played.  Instead, they were garnered from teams with losing records. 

So how is it that Maryland is the only team in the country to have beaten three ranked teams only to fall to less heralded opponents?

One would look to quarterback Chris Turner. When he's on, he's on.

The California Kid is brilliant against ranked opposition.  According to ESPN Research, Turner is 5-0 against Top 25 teams since taking over at quarterback last year.  He's amassed 1,135 yards, seven touchdowns, and zero interceptions in those five games.

Yet Turner has struggled against weaker opponents in the other 13 games he's played in, throwing nearly twice as many interceptions (13) than touchdowns (7).

But Turner has looked more confident and less shaky this season as opposed to last year.

Look no further than last weekend when Maryland played its best game of the season against #19 Wake Forest. Turner threw a career-high 41 passes, connecting on 29 of them for 321 yards and a touchdown. 

The Terps were also finally able to fully utilize star wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey, who caught a career-high 11 catches, collected 101 yards, and scored a touchdown.

Maryland has had some difficulties getting their playmaker the ball this season but offensive coordinator James Franklin has stressed the importance of the junior wideout and said that they try to include him in as many plays as they possibly can. 

A shift in the offensive line has also seemed to help as true sophomore Bruce Campbell took over at left tackle while fifth year senior Scott Burley was shifted over to the right.  The change gave running back Da'Rel Scott plenty of holes to run through and allowed Turner ample time in the pocket to throw the ball.

Perhaps the most drastic improvement in Maryland's offense has been the performance of kicker Obi Egekeze.  After missing his first five field goals this season (including a 27 yard chip shot vs. Cal), he has made his last nine and is currently tied for second place in the conference. 

The kicking game will only get more important from here on out against the next five teams the Terps play.

One the defensive side, Maryland received some very bad news as senior cornerback Kevin Barnes broke his shoulder blade last weekend and will be out for remainder of the season. 

Barnes is one of the most talented defensive players the Terps have on their roster and even became a YouTube sensation after his memorable, viscous hit against Cal running back Javid Best.

The depleted secondary is cause for alarm as, along with Barnes, defensive backs Richard Taylor and Dominique Herald are also out for the year.

As for Saturday's match-up against NC State, Maryland will need to play with the same intensity as last weekend and not allow the struggling Wolfpack to embarrass the Terps in front of a Homecoming crowd.

If Turner starts the game off hot then it's all said and done.  His momentum is key to the Terps' success and a shaky start could result in a closer game than people expect.  With Maryland's limited secondary, ever-improving quarterback Russell Wilson could have a monster day at Byrd Stadium.

Frankly, no one knows what to expect with the schizophrenic Terps but Maryland is undefeated at home and seems recharged and refocused after the Virginia debacle.

Now in a four-way tie for first place in the Atlantic Division, the Terrapins control their destiny from here on out but must take care of business against NC state tomorrow afternoon if they want to reach Tampa Bay.