What Is The Purpose of A College Coach?

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Watching Marshawn Lynch piledrive his way into the end zone on Sunday against the Raiders yesterday, I can’t help but look back upon his exciting tenure at California. There were times when he looked unstoppable in open field, not even six feet of power driving past tacklers and defenders. I remember him against the Huskies, leading the team back with all the casualness of a dud. “Come on, let’s do this, then we’ll all go to Applebee’s. My treat.”

There’s no doubt of Lynch’s explosiveness, but what these higlights don’t pick up is how much stronger a blocker he’s become. The measure of a great running back has not just been his ability to hop step into traffic but also to stand back in the pocket and defend his quarterback. You’d see him stay in the pocket and pick up the blitzer, or rove to make sure any new tacklers stay away. He made up for the offensive line’s mediocre performance on more than one occasion.

Much of the credit for Lynch’s development (as it does for most of Cal’s current NFL talent) needs to go to Jeff Tedford, who instilled his players with the fundamentals of football. Good blocking, good route running, good play reading has been the cornerstone of a successful Tedford offense, which relies on brains rather than brawn to accomplish its goals. You could argue that this is the reason Aaron Rodgers earned the starting job from Brett Favre, and how DeSean Jackson is making all the doubters look pretty stupid right now.

Contrast that with talent from other schools. Vince Young and Reggie Bush were both spectacular talents in college, but success came too easily for them there. When they reached the pro levels they were flummoxed by the adversity they faced, and they still haven’t developed the skills necessary to succeed on the professional level. Tedford shielded his players from that success, keeping them grounded and keeping them working toward improving their play every week instead of ‘turning them loose’.

(This is not meant as an insult toward Kevin Riley fanboys, but if you really want Riley to succeed in the long-term, letting him air the ball out is not the answer. His development will be contingent on his ability to manage the offense, and he is still ways away from accomplishing that goal.)

But Cal fans probably don’t care too much about what happens outside of Strawberry Canyon. So this brings us to a theoretical question about a good college coach: Should you get the most out of your players while you can, or should you sacrifice a few losses now and then to keep them grounded in their development?

Playing smart has its drawbacks. Players will have off-weeks. They’ll miss routes. They’ll fail in their blocking schemes. Their throws will be a little off. It’s hard playing smart. Even the most talented individuals will screw up, and a dumb team will come along and steal a game or two from you. In the worst case scenario, maybe more. Undoubtedly, you can point at last season’s collapse, when Cal’s most talented individuals were on different pages, chapters, books. Growing pains at their worst.

Yet when you watch a player like Lynch (and others like Aaron Rodgers and DeSean Jackson) succeeding on a week-by-week basis, you realize that all of it has a payoff. They get to keep on playing, keep on growing.

I’m fairly pleased with winning seasons and developing solid NFL talent. That’s what a good college coach that’s not at a football factory is supposed to do. But I wonder how many people would beg to differ. Is developing NFL caliber talent more important for a college coach than earning BCS berths year after year?

How Has Cal Football Performed in the Humidity?

Posted by: Avinash on Friday, September 19th, 2008

After the disappointing showing by the Bears at Maryland, many fans wondered how much the humidity adjustment played a factor. Zack Follett himself said that the team struggled its way throughmost of the game.

“It was tough,” said Follett. “The offense was not firing in the first three quarters and the defense was playing a little sluggish. To tell you the truth, this humidity was tough. With this heat and humidity, I was over-heating in the game but I think once we got our second wind as a defense in the second half, it was easier to feel more grounded. I don’t think the trip did anything to us. This was a tough heat to battle. We are not used to this humidity and they kind of had the advantage there.”

For those who want some historical perspective on the Bears’s East Coast performance, I’ll give some major props to RealBear65 from the Bear Insider for compiling this partial list of the opponents we’ve faced in the most humid locations.

These temperatures are fairly relative. If anyone has any corrections let me know.

12/26/31 – Georgia Tech – Won 19-6
12/26/36 – Georgia Tech – Lost 7-13
12/28/40 – Georgia Tech – Lost 0-13 (no temperatures listed before 1940)
10/13/62 – Duke – Lost 7-21 (84 degrees F, 96% humidity)
10/10/64 – Miami(F) – Won 9-7 (night game) (73 degrees F, 63% humidity)
09/11/71 – Arkansas – Lost 20-51 (81 degrees F, no humidity given)
09/15/73 – Alabama – Lost 0-66 (86 degrees F, 97% humidity)
09/14/74 – Florida – Lost 17-21 (93 degrees F, 97% humidity)
09/11/76 – Georgia – Lost 24-36 (78 deg F, 77% humidity)
09/10/77 – Tennessee – Won 27-17 (84 deg F, 93% humidity)
09/16/78 – Georgia Tech – Won 34-22 (80 deg F, no humidity listed)
09/13/80 – Florida – Lost 13-41 (84 deg F, 97% humidity)
09/12/81 – Georgia – Lost 13-27 (87 deg F, 93% humidity)
10/03/87 – Tennessee – Lost 12-38 (59 deg F, 55% humidity)
09/16/89 – Miami(F) – Lost 3-31 (91 deg F, 90% humidity)
10/04/97 – Louisiana Tech – Lost 34-41 (69 deg F, no humidity recorded)
12/04/04 – So. Miss – Won 26-16 (52 deg F, 77% humidity)
09/02/06 – Tennessee – Lost 18-35 (81 deg F, 90% humidity)

Examining these points on the graph, there are some observations we can note between weather conditions and game results.

As you can see from the data and the graphs, most of these are losses. The Bears were 5-13 in these humid climates, and as we move past the 100 degree heat index, Cal was 0-6. Their best win appears to be a 27-17 win in Rocky Top in 1977 at temperatures bordering on 100.

One caveat to these results though is that a lot of these Cal teams…well…did not perform very well through the course of the regular season. So it could be argued by the common layman fan that the teams they faced hopelessly outmatched them. One astute poster noted the differences between the Eastern team’s standings and Cal’s standings that year, so it could just be argued that the stronger team prevailed in most games. Even the Tennessee win was against a weak Vol opponent, and Cal was fairly strong with eight total wins by the end.

Nevertheless, last week’s Maryland game tied for the second highest on the heat index–temperatures on the field probably felt as high as 126 degrees Fahrenheit as the game wore on. Humidity was a perfect 100%. It has yet to bare out how strong either team will turn out, so we’ll have to revisit this argument at the end of the season. But it can definitely be argued that the conditions took a toll early and kept Cal from focusing in-time for the game.

Here is a personal anecdote from a player at the 1980 Florida game.

My brother and I played in that game. We came from Louisiana where it was even more humid to start Fall Camp in Berkeley where it was mid-50s and foggy. Then we flew down to play a 12:30 game in Tampa (school had not yet started in Gainesville) where it was 90 degrees and 90 per cent humidity. It was tied 13-13 at half time and people were just dying from the water loss in the locker room. The final score – 42-13 – was entirely humidity based. Five weeks later we play Michigan in Ann Arbor. We practice in 90 degree weather in Berkeley and play in snow in Michigan. A true scheduling disaster.

How much do you think the humidity affects the performance of our Golden Bears when they travel east? And do any Bears fans or ex-players have their own personal stories to share of enduring three hours of the muggy heat?

Also, if anyone has any more games, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them in. The initial spreadsheet is here; if you want I can add you in as a collaborator and you can add in the games Cal has played out East.

All temperatures courtesy of Weather Underground’s historical database. Heat indices deduced via NOAA’s calculator.

Week 3 Blogpoll

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, September 18th, 2008
Rank Team Delta
1 Southern Cal 3
2 Oklahoma
3 Florida 2
4 Georgia 1
5 LSU 2
6 Missouri 2
7 Texas 1
8 Penn State 1
9 South Florida 4
10 Oregon
11 Texas Tech 1
12 Auburn 1
13 Utah 3
14 East Carolina
15 Alabama 3
16 Brigham Young 4
17 Ohio State 12
18 Wisconsin 5
19 Wake Forest 4
20 Vanderbilt 4
21 Mississippi
22 North Carolina 4
23 Oklahoma State 3
24 Kansas 2
25 Illinois
Dropped Out: California (#17), Arizona State (#19).
Big Ten (4)
Don’t have too many words. Ohio State takes their expected fistjob at the Coliseum and now flees back to the Midwest, not to be seen or cared about by the rest of college football country until January 1st. They are still better than the overrated Wisconsin Badgers, who had a less-than-impressive tout against Fresblow. Meanwhile “get off my porch” Joe Pa continues to march Penn State through inferior competition, making me think the battle between him and Tressel will decide the Rose Bowl ticket. And I have no idea why Illinois is still ranked. They needed four quarters to handle the inept Ragin’ Cajuns.
ACC (2)
Wake Forest drops a bit for being idle, while outside of College Park, North Carolina had the most impressive victory for the conference, dominating a now irrelevant Rutgers team on Thursday night. Looming are the Seminoles and Hurricanes, who could very well make their move in the next few weeks. UNC plays Va Tech and Miami and Wake Forest draws FSU in the battle for…something. I dunno. This is kind of like voting for Kang or Kodos. You might as well build a rocket ship and get outta there.
Pac-10 (2)
USC is clearly #1 this week. Oregon stands pat after surviving Purdue. The rest of the conference does not exist.
Big East (1)
There’s South Florida, and then there’s everyone else. It might be the cruelest of years for the Bulls, who have a decent shot to go undefeated. With a loss to West Virginia though, they might be denied the National Championship, the BCS, and a Big East title. Who knows. Credit Jim Leavitt though, who could quite possibly be the first coach with Down’s syndrome to participate in a January bowl.
(Jinxing South Florida as much as I can. Tampa sucks.)
MWC (2)
The Mountain West Conference is now 4-0 against the Pac-10. I considered putting UNLV here (winners of 8 of 38!) just for what went down in Tempe, but decided that would be too outlandish. Just sad.
Big 12 (6)
Welcome to the most interesting conference of 2008. Who knows what’s going down with  Oklahoma State, as it rambles its way. I gave Kansas a small deduction for their entertaining defeat to South Florida, but they should probably be right back up there until their showdown with Boomer Sooners. Oklahoma rolled up a dead man walking Washington team, Texas Tech and Missouri destroyed patsies, and Texas got iked. Nothing really to say until these teams start beating each other.
Conference USA (1)
East Carolina squeaks by an underrated Tulane team that gave Alabama all sorts of fits. No deductions for them. Hold steady where they are.
SEC (7)
Florida drops for not playing, Georgia drops for looking inept on offense (Matt Stafford must’ve been throwing shot puts the way the receivers were dropping or missing those), LSU moves up because Ohio State moves down, Auburn drops a spot for participating in the WORST GAME I’VE EVER SEEN (but won, nevertheless), Alabama gets bumped up for routing, Vanderbilt keeps on rolling, Ole Miss stands pat after a whatever performance. Sorry Pac-10 homers. This conference smack talk was silly to begin with; it looks really stupid with Vanderbilt looking better than the THIRD best Pac-10 team.
On the other hand, I’m not ready to say Auburn is worse than Utah. Not quite yet.
The SEC does have trademark games this week though: Alabama at Arkansas, Florida at Tennessee, Auburn at LSU (BIG ONE!), Georgia at ASU. The luster is gone from the last one, but the Sun Devils can earn a measure of redemption with a big win. Not much else compelling in the college football landscape, so get ready for ten hours of redneck jokes this Saturday!

DeSean Jackson Happy To Have People Underestimate Him

Posted by: Avinash on Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

IRVING, TX–Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson seems to be taking his now infamous play in stride, forcing many NFL fans ponder deeply about the astounding individual talent from Cal.

“He seems pretty casual about it. What a bonehead.” Said one NFL fan. And another. And another. Actually, it went like that through most of the night. Sometimes the thinking would vacillate between bonehead and douchebag, but bonehead seemed to be the appropriate term.

Other prominent individuals watching the game seem to be wondering the same thing.

“Think about it.” Said famous film director Oliver Stone. “Here is a highly touted rookie who has been downgraded by many a teammate and coach for being selfish and me-oriented. His unofficial nickname amongst his haters is MeSean, for God’s sake. Wouldn’t it make too much sense for Jackson to just commit a play like this on the national stage?”

“There has to be something deeper going on here. Perhaps Andy Reid had something to do with it. NFL coaches are geniuses, we all know that, why else are they on the sidelines rather than working on CERN?”

“It’s a classic strategic manuever,” Exclaims legendary strategist Robert Greene. “Make people confirm what they know about you so they can denounce and downgrade your accomplishments. Michael Jordan did it all the time, when media people said Player X might be the next MJ, and then the Real MJ exploded for 40 on the pretender the next night.”

“What DeSean did was draw people away from his impressive rookie accomplishment and prevent people from hyping him up. Quite impressive how he drew the Dallas defenders away from the play, too, so it didn’t cost his team anything. A fine football sleight-of hand.”

“After all,” Greene pointed out, “He’s done this before. People called him a showboat and a headcase, all the while putting up otherworldly numbers at Cal. Yet people still talk about his character and issues despite the effort and numbers he puts out. So people continue to underrate him and he continues to perform. That’s probably the way he likes it.”

ESPN talking head Emmitt Smith was more politically correct. “It looked bad. It coulda been worse. Coaching is tough. Players need to play. Usually 11 on 11. Otherwise they probably can’t achieve victoriousness.”

Skip Bayless was his typical diplomatic self on the subject. “What an idiot. He’s really an idiot. Can I just remind you he’s an idiot? Idiots don’t deserve to play in the NFL. Don’t give me those stats, stars shouldn’t be idiots! Complete idiot. He needs to be put on trial for being an idiot.”

Blogroll Updates, Technical Matters

Posted by: Avinash on Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

With commenting lagging over the offseason, you might have noticed this site has switched over to the Disqus commenting system to encourage and foster more discussion. Some of the comments are split between here and the syndication of these posts at Bleacher Report, so I generally get comments either here or there. Hopefully things get better on that front.

There’s also been all sorts of errors with the right sidebar in Internet Explorer, and I don’t have a clue as to what the hell’s going on there. I’d just suggest downloading FIrefox or Chrome, since IE sucks and all. Easy enough solution. Or just subscribe to the feed, which works for everyone.

Also, the blogroll has been updated. Here are the fluctations in the golden blogosphere:

New to the game: Blue and Gold Sports (doesn’t post often, but when he does, it’s extensive), The Bear Will Not Quit (a very recent addition, but he’s showing great promise), Bears with Fangs (quality work all offseason long), The Sporting Contrarian (a little bit more infrequent, but he does post excellent law updates on the SAHPC case). Erin’s Cal Goodies has some good stuff, although it’s more informational than analytical and has been placed in the resources section.

Added is a separate section of mainstream Cal columnists: Andrew Kim, Jack Ross and Matt Kawahara from the Daily Cal, Jonathan Okanes from Contra Costa, Rusty Simmons of the SF Chronicle, etc. Ray Ratto writes occasionally about the Bears, but he focuses on the mainstream sports and is a little too dour for my tastes. Jon Wilner is similar, but he writes more about Cal and his criticism is more pointed . Bear Bytes and BearTalk are mainstream blogs, so they go with the Cal webbers.

As for athletes? Alex Mack has a semi-blog!

Note to mainstream media: More people would read your website if you set up RSS feeds for your writers. The gymnastics it takes to find past columns is terribly exhausting. It’s the big reason I end up at Cal Golden Bear Football News.

Off the list: The Daily Clog, which posts too infrequently about Cal sports (and nurtures a bizarro love with the treesitters) to be considered. Scott Moura is a smart guy, but he writes too infrequently about the Bears to be considered a Cal blogger. I do think we’ll have something special set up for Cal alum clubs around the country soon though.

No longer updating: Dank Down (last post back in January), Rose Bowl Before I Die last post after The Big Game). And although I’m still holding out hope, I think it’s safe to assume Nate Longshore will not be reviving his blogging career.

If anyone else has any site recommendations for either Cal or Pac-10 or countrywide, leave them in the comments.

The Pac-10 Report: Week 3

Posted by: Avinash on Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

USC

Conquest Chronicles: “Saturday night really opened up the nations eyes as to just how good the offense is going to be. The offensive line was absolutely flawless in their execution of the game plan and their protection of Mark Sanchez. Yes, they allowed one sack in the 4th qtr. when SC was going for it on 4th and short but by then things were well in hand. Pete Carroll has been questioned in his use of a rotation system with the running backs but it has worked pretty well even though it was pretty much Joe McKnight’s night as hehad the hot hand and got the bulk of the carries. The unit that has also stepped up are the receivers, they are finally starting to make plays. Last night was Damian Williams night as he caught to TD passes and appears to be THE go to guy for Mark Sanchez.”

Oregon

Addicted to Quack: “[Justin Roper] cannot throw the ball deep. Jaison Williams (who in my opinion is getting too much blame thus far) had one-on-one coverage on the outside most of the day, but we were never able to take advantage of that, because either Roper cannot throw deep, or the coaches will not let him throw deep. This flaw has been apparent since the UCLA game last year. He has consistently had low yards per attempt, and the only reason that has gone over 6 in any game is because receivers have taken short passes and made more out of them.”

Oregon State

Building the Dam: “The hype that Sammie Stroughter generates makes Shane Morales so much better. He had 151 yards at Stanford, 40 and Penn State, and now 93 against Hawaii. Shane has about 30 more yards total than Sammie through the first three games. Shane is a smart kid who knows how to get open, and it doesn’t hurt him that he’s got a good bond with Lyle.”

Alright, that’s the good stuff. Onto the multitudes of bad, including some thoughts on Maryland and Michigan State for Cal fans.

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Let’s Speak of It One More Time: Cal-Maryland Report Card

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, September 15th, 2008

(Check out Testudo Times for a report card of Maryland’s team)

First of all, everyone’s looking for a scapegoat to blame Cal. The humidity, the weather, the turnovers, the coaching. Clearly, Maryland did nothing to win that game; this was all Cal playing below their level, right?

Fine, if you’re going to blame someone, blame me. Here’s what I said before the game.

Again, this being a young team, expect some growing pains (first game, then first road game, now first national TV game), but Cal will have to kill themselves repeatedly to fall.

To be fair, Cal didn’t have to kill themselves much in this game. Maryland did all the killing for them.

And this.

Nervous? Jittery? Wouldn’t you be?

An innocuous jab at Maryland, but a jab nonetheless. Just damned stupid, especially knowing Cal -14 was going to be a trap line all week long. Someone meet me on San Pablo and place a pickaxe through my skull. For more stupidity, I added in that dumb poll on the sidebar to project Cal’s season, that included an option for Cal going to the National Championship game, which was insane. That answer has been eliminated, and voters who are wiser than me were smart enough not to pick it.

Goddamn 66-3. It made me channel my best Bill Simmons impression. I jinxed the team. And for my last moment of Sports Guydom, I’ll admit I’m an idiot.

It’s my fault, damnit! Give me all the blame!

Alright, time for some fairly grim grades.

Quarterback: That interception was horrid, although it might have looked worse than it actually was–there is a possibility that the receiver on the play was caught slipping on the play and the D-back jumping into the route of the pass. But many of Riley’s balls did the same thing against Washington State–sail. It seemed the easier the pass was, the further the ball drifted away from the receiver.

Some of these passes were against tight coverage, so I can’t totally blame him. On the other hand, he was holding onto the ball a long time, making a few receivers frustrated they were not getting the ball in time. It makes you wonder if he’s going through all his progressions and reading as many of his receivers as he can. A nasty side effect was that it eventually made him a sitting duck against an aggressive pass rush.

On the other hand, he did lead the team back late on three scoring drives. So he did show that comeback ability when he needed to, albeit far too late to make a dent on the game.

I don’t know. I need to watch more tape. To be continued.

Grade: C+

Running backs: Jeremy Ross had the biggest rush of the game. That is pretty bad. At least Best still accumulated 200+ all-purpose yards, although his overblown Heisman hopes (the dumbest thing to emerge from last week’s beating) are over. I’m not in mourning over it. He’ll have more years.

Just eat better Best. Whatever came out of your mouth yesterday was not pretty.

[youtube 4GIP5TpN858]

Grade: C

Receivers: Eventually, all these receivers looked good. At the beginning, none of them looked good. Some of it was due to passes from Riley sailing over their heads, some of it was likely due to bad routes being run yet again. Cunningham, Boateng and Calvin would all have solid games by evening’s end, but you have to wonder when the offense will start to click together as a cohesive unit for an entire game. Hopefully it’ll happen before Oregon.

Grade: C+

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Now Let Us Never Speak Of It Again

Posted by: Tony on Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Well, this beltway trip hasn’t quite turned out the way I expected.  I was expecting to have pictures to accompany this post, but I’m thinking this one should go down the memory hole asap, and I’ll be destroying all records of it (perhaps I’ll have a change of heart later).  Here are some initial, slightly-impaired thoughts on this debacle.

What does this remind me of?

My first thought is let’s not get too despondent.  Appearing drastically overmatched in every facet of the game while giving up 35 points to an out-of-conference foe on the road.  We’ve seen this movie before, no?  Yes, a lot about this game reminded me of that trip to Tennessee two years ago.  And yes, it feels deflating the same way that loss did.  But it also reminds me that sometimes you just come out flat in a road game.  Sometimes, you fail to execute and get away from your game plan.  And sometimes you bounce back and redeem yourself when it matters — in conference play — like we did that year.  So yes, this was bad.  But what comes of it is still unknown.

And about the game plan

I’ve always thought the keys to Tedford’s offensive success were balance and possession.  On thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some of our most painful loses are characterized by an abandonment of the running game that drives that Tedford scheme.  Obviously some of that is a necessary result of getting behind early and needing to pass to get back in the game.  But I really felt like Tedford prematurely abandoned the emphasis on balance in games like our loss to Tennessee in 2006, our loss to Stanfurd last year, and our loss today.

I get that the run just wasn’t there today.  But maybe it would have arrived later in the game.  What good is throwing fifty-one times to get back in the game quickly, if throwing is getting you consistent 3-and-outs?  I generally think that if you’re the more-talented team, you should stick to your scheme even if you’re not executing and you’re falling behind.

And a few notes on the atmosphere…

One bright spot to note is that Cal had a huge showing at the game.  Everyone in my section was behaving with class and good cheer even when Cal was stinking up the place.  The Maryland fans were also fairly respectful.  A few sitting just in front of the upperdeck of the Cal section were wearing shirts that said “You Suck” and were obviously intended for whatever visiting fans happen to sit behind that section week after week.  Dickish?  Yes.  But kinda clever.

Also, there’s an amazing emphasis on commercialism in the Maryland stadium.  I’ve never seen so many corporate tyeins at a college football game.  “Hold up your Chevy Chase bank card and win $100.”  Every Maryland touchdown entitled fans to a free topping at Papa John’s (that’s five delicious toppings people!).  The best was the pledge that, should Maryland score 26 points, everyone would get a free gallon of windshield wiper fluid.  Many a clean windshield on the beltway this weekend.

Enough.  Go Bears.  Let’s beat the Rams.

Cal – Maryland Liveblog

Posted by: Avinash on Saturday, September 13th, 2008

This should kickoff around noon EST, 9 AM PST, and Cal is playing the first national telecast that almost everyone around the country will be watching. It’s not like there are any bigger games happening today, right?

Nervous? Jittery? Wouldn’t you be?

Because the game’s on ESPN, no one nationwide should have trouble watching these games. For those who want to watch the game online and are either overseas or isolated from civilization, you can watch with the feed link provided here and utilizing these instructions for the Sopcast software. If there any additional feeds that you stumble on, post them on the liveblog and I’ll comment on them throughout the game.

For other places to discuss the game online, CGB has the open threads, Jonathan Okanes and Ken Crawford are both at the game and both of their blogs will be updated regularly during the game.

For those who are having trouble viewing the liveblog below, click here and the screen will pop up for you!

Significant Terps: Cal – Maryland Preview

Posted by: Avinash on Friday, September 12th, 2008


(Just a programming note: Cal-Maryland liveblog starts at 11:30-11:45 AM EST, 8:30-8:45 AM PST. Mmm, bleary-eyed.)

Offense-We’re not so different after all: In a hotly debated quarterback controversy, both Jordan Steffy and Chris Turner had their roles to play in the 2007 season. After Steffy epitomized the low-risk offense (67.3 completion percentage with 98 yards per game), Turner came in and threw for 1,958 yards with a 63.5 completion percentage (stats from Phil Steele), including upsets at Rutgers and home versus BC.

Yet Maryland’s appropriately named coach, Ralph Friedgen, went right back to Steffy for the season opener. After a hum-drum first three quarters versus Delaware, Friedgen went right to Turner after Steffy “suffered an injured thumb”. But all this yanking around seems to have stifled the team’s performance, as evidenced by last week’s result (more on that later). Not to mention third string quarterback (and supposed cheater) Josh Portis keeps on getting snaps all over the place, leaving poor Turner looking over his shoulder (he will be starting Saturday, according to reports).

The lesson here? Be glad who your head coach is.

Fact: Maryland was flat-out embarrassed last week in a 24-14 defeat to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.

Deeper Truth: Middle Tennessee State dominated possession in the first half, running three drives that lasted ten plays or more, yet somehow only came out with ten points (a missed field goal was the result of the third drive). MTSU ran 54 plays in the first half, Maryland 17 yet nursed a 10-7 lead at halftime. Returning all of five starters, Maryland’s defense seems to be applying an extreme version of bend don’t break.

Maryland presents many challenges as a team as well. They have big time players at running back and at receiver and they have an experienced and physical offensive line.

~Jeff Tedford

When given the opportunity, Maryland’s two big gamebreakers Da’Rel Scott and Darrius Heyward-Bey broke out for deep field scores that kept the Terps in the game. Despite the disparity in team performance, both of Maryland’s touchdown drives were similar to how Cal accumulated the bulk of their points–long yardage, quick hitting plays by their playmakers. Maryland’s two scoring drives lasted a grand total of thirty-nine seconds. Their two longest drives ended in a field goal miss and an interception in the red zone.

Caveat: Maryland’s bipolar offense allowed them to channel Washington State too, as Chris Turner threw three interceptions, one at his own 22 that led to a decisive MTSU score in the third quarter, the other two killing late 4th quarter drives in Blue Raider territory.  According to Turtle Waxing, Middle Tennessee State’s strategy seemed to be as follows:

Apparently both of these strategies paid off. Maryland could not mount a successful fourth quarter drive, coming out of MTSU territory three times with zero points.

What has to be even more discouraging for Maryland is that they didn’t even get upset by a strong mid-major. Middle Tennessee State has only 27 upperclassmen and isn’t projected to finish much higher than fifth or sixth in the Sun Belt.

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