Allegany Radio Corporation Sports
Maryland and West Virginia … Well, the Terps won their 18th consecutive home-opener on Saturday, beating Towson, 38-6, while the Mountaineers fell to Penn State, 38-15, in front of over 100,000 fans and a national television audience.
The Terps’ defense looked pretty good against the Tigers as it should have, as they haven’t allowed a touchdown in their last three games dating back to Nov. 19 against Ohio State. That’s not bad. In fact, it’s tough to do, even against Rutgers, N.C. State and Towson. Maryland will have a good defense.
Senior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was good, completing 22 of 33 attempts with three touchdowns and no turnovers. The completion line would have been much better, though, if not for a handful of dropped passes by Maryland’s wide receivers, including what would have been a sure 74-yard touchdown dropped by a wide open Tai Felton on the Terps’ second possession.
On the other hand, whether it’s fair or not, Terps fans are just going to have to get used to holding their breath during the course of this season as it pertains to Tagovailoa’s health. Through the third quarter on Saturday, he seemed to be holding his left arm very still against his body and also had moments of checking his knee, which caught the attention of the Big Ten Network.
And the truth is, Tagovailoa was hit far more often than he should have been in a 32-point win over a physically overmatched opponent, and that’s a problem for a team such as Maryland that says it’s poised to take the next step up the food chain. For anything like that to happen, the Terps are going to have to protect better, because there aren’t many overmatched opponents left on the schedule.
The Maryland offensive line was the biggest concern entering the season and one game in, it continues to be. Tagovailoa was rushed much of the day, was sacked twice and was hit quite a bit more. Granted, a lot of Maryland players played on Saturday and the Terps were without their starting right tackle, but a Big Ten team needs to be better than this up front against an FCS school, as the run blocking against Towson wasn’t much better.
And, of course, if it’s Maryland football, there are penalties, and on Saturday it wasn’t even a Big Ten officiating crew doing the game.
The Terps are very talented at most positions on the field, but they are the least experienced where it matters the most and that’s the offensive line, which is kind of a difficult position to hide or decoy.
Saturday night the Mountaineers journeyed over to State College and, to my view, held their own against one of the best teams in the country.
Still, I see CJ Donaldson in the West Virginia backfield and I see a guy who can run the football, and he did well against Penn State. The same can be said about quarterback Garrett Greene; he ran the ball very well, too, as he usually does. So why not run more, particularly when you’re facing an offense like Penn State’s? Why not try to keep the ball away from them as much as possible and open the pass game through the run game?
Penn State is the goods, but I didn’t understand the number of gimmick plays WVU tried to run on them. I thought it made the Mountaineers’ decision-makers look intimidated, because the WVU defense played well and the offense has the ability to run the football. Why play scared and do too much too fast on the road against a top-10 team in the first game of the season?
Also, West Virginia voiced displeasure over Penn State’s final touchdown that led to the final of 38-15. Frankly, I didn’t even notice it to think of it that way. Neal Brown said, though, he wouldn’t have done it had he been in the position Penn State was in, but that what goes around comes around.
Pretty bold subtle talk, Neal. But how about first putting yourself and your team into a position of not doing it before you tell us what you think about it. By no means am I a fan of James Franklin, but, overall, I feel there was nothing to see there.
That said, I very much liked seeing the uniforms both Maryland and West Virginia wore on Saturday – Maryland returning to the script Terps helmet and the uniform of the Bobby Ross era, and the Mountaineers wearing the traditional away look from the Don Nehlen era.
Both looks are crisp and to the point and are both classic college football uniforms. I know Maryland is going to stick with the traditional script uniform. I hope West Virginia has a home version and sticks with what I consider to be the best WVU football uniform of them all.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT