BALTIMORE — The Terps will feel good about their 17-14 victory over the Naval Academy — Maryland’s first win since Oct. 3, 2009 — but a plethora of question marks remain for a team trying to rebound from a 2-10 season in 2009.
Perhaps none looms larger than quarterback Jamarr Robinson, who rushed for 92 yards on 12 attempts but completed only two passes for 11 yards.
Despite showing impressive speed, Robinson has yet to show enough consistency in the passing game to instill much confidence that the Terps can significantly improve after a disastrous 2009. In Monday’s victory over the Midshipmen, Robinson tossed an interception from the Navy 19-yard line as the Terps were threatening to add to a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
“I felt like I could have thrown the ball better,” Robinson said. “We struggled in the passing game, but we came away with the win and that is all that matters.’
Maryland’s plight at quarterback might not be as frustrating if not for the extensive depth it possesses at the wide receiver position. Junior Torrey Smith, a Biletnikoff Award candidate, touched the ball just three times for a total of 11 yards, as the Midshipmen also kicked away from the dangerous returner throughout the afternoon. Adrian Cannon was held to one catch for five yards while LaQuan Williams, Ronnie Tyler, Kevin Dorsey, and Quintin McCree all failed to register a catch.
Of course, production in the passing game takes a backseat when a team rushes for 261 yards on 34 carries, but Ralph Friedgen’s decision to insert Danny O’Brien early in the fourth quarter during a tie game speaks volumes about the uncertainty the coaching staff feels with Robinson at the helm. Despite the change, O’Brien’s fumbled hand-off to Davin Meggett from the Navy 16 paved the way for Robinson’s return after only one play for the redshirt frosh.
The shuffling of quarterbacks, however, is not foreign to Friedgen, as he split time between Turner and Jordan Steffy as early as two seasons ago. The Maryland coach said it was planned to give O’Brien playing time against Navy and reiterated after the game that both quarterbacks would play this season.
“There was a mix-up on [Robinson's] interception,” said Friedgen when asked to assess Robinson’s play. “We’ve got some weapons out there that I’m sure we’re going to be using, but when you only get 39 snaps, that’s the other thing.”
Red zone, dead zone
Efficiency in the red zone is a must for any good football team, but if Monday was any indication, Maryland and Navy may both be heading toward difficult seasons.
The Terps went 3-for-5 in red zone opportunities with Robinson throwing a second-quarter interception from the Navy 19 and O’Brien fumbling from the Mids’ 16 after Tony Logan had snapped off a 57-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter. Maryland cashed in on its three other opportunities inside the red zone with scoring runs by Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett and the go-ahead 24-yard field goal by Travis Baltz.
Navy, however, brought its red zone inefficiency to a new level, going just 2-for-7 inside the 20. The Midshipmen missed a 32-yard field goal, finished three drives with fumbles inside Maryland’s 5-yard line, and sealed their losing fate when quarterback Ricky Dobbs was stuffed by safety Kenny Tate on 4th-and-goal from the Terps’ 1 with 0:34 remaining in the game.
“There’s no consolation in moving the ball,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said after the loss. “The object of the game is to score, and they did a good job keeping us out. We just had some mental lapses. I got out-coached. This is a team loss.”
Double duty for Baltz
Placekicker Nick Ferrara filled in for an injured Baltz last season, so it was only fair for the senior punter to return the favor in the 2010 opener. With Ferrara nursing a groin injury, Baltz handled both punting and kicking duties, making the eventual game-winning 24-yard field goal with 7:50 remaining in the game.
“I tried to mentally prepare myself and when I lined up to kick, I just visualized the ball going in,” Baltz said. “I think my preparation was very helpful for today’s game.”
It was the first field goal of Baltz’s career, and he was also 2-for-2 on PATs. He also averaged 53.0 yards per punt on three tries. Friedgen recognized the senior’s impact by making him a captain for Monday’s game and presenting him with the Crab Bowl trophy after the Terrapins’ win.
The Terps improved to 7-14 all-time against Navy. Maryland’s last win against Navy had come in the schools’ last meeting, a 23-20 victory at M&T Bank Stadium in 2005.
With Friedgen’s future very much in doubt, Monday’s victory over the Midshipmen may have earned the coach bonus points with newly-appointed athletic director Kevin Anderson. After holding the same position at Army and never beating the Naval Academy during his tenure at West Point, there was little doubt how much satisfaction Anderson took in the Terps’ victory.
“I hope he’s appreciative [of the win],” said Friedgen, earning laughs from reporters in the post-game press conference.
Odds & ends
Meggett’s 67-yard sprint in the first quarter was the longest of the junior’s career. It was also the Terps’ longest run since Darrius Heyward-Bey had a 76-yarder against Clemson on Sept. 27, 2008. Maryland’s longest run last season was a 48-yarder by Scott. … Senior linebacker Alex Wujciak had a career-high 18 tackles and has now recorded double-digit tackles in 18 of his last 23 games. … Tate recorded a career-high 12 tackles, including his stop at the 1 on 4th-and-goal to preserve the victory. … Scott’s 58 rushing yards gave him 1,751 in his career, moving him past Keon Lattimore for 14th on the all-time list at Maryland. … The Terps did not have a pass completion until their first drive of the third quarter. … The announced attendance at M&T Bank Stadium was 69,348.