Let me preface by saying that I'm already chowing down on some crow after my hastily-made prediction last Friday. I thought the game would get ugly, which it did, but I really believed that this would be the first complete game Maryland would play all season. Of course, I was wrong, but let's start with how much time I invested prior to homecoming so I would be able to enjoy Saturday to its fullest:
1) I stayed in Friday night and wrote a three page paper that's due today for one of my classes
2) I got up early Saturday morning to take an online final exam (which was basically another two page paper) for the previously mentioned class
3) Yes, I stayed in Friday night to write a paper
With all that work out of the way, I was able to maximize my free time and tailgate for four hours without any looming assignments giving me a guilt complex. Not only do night games create the best college football gameday atmosphere, but they're also perfect for spending ridiculous amounts of time tailgating. While walking to the stadium with an increased level of confidence, mostly attributed to my hearty alcohol consumption, I was near certain we were going to win this game. Homecoming, under the lights, sold-out crowd, coming off a two-game wining streak... you get the idea.
Everything was clicking along in the first half - a pair of touchdowns by Leon Baltimore (a clever message board pseudonym for the Lance Ball/Keon Lattimore running back combo), no turnovers, solid time of possession. Yet, once again, just like nearly every other game this season, we gave up a double digit lead. Fridge started calling his conservative, play not to lose schemes in order to maintain the lead but the bend not break defense wasn't getting it done. Seriously, we made UVA's third-string RB look like a Heisman candidate thanks to Chris Cosh's horrific defensive schemes. I've completely had it with Cosh and he needs to be let go ASAP. I wasn't thrilled when he was hired last season and there hasn't been one game (Clemson last season is the lone exception) where the defense has shined under him. The fact that he was hired from Temple says enough right there (no offense to Temple football fans).
Speaking of play calling, Fridge needs to step down as offensive coordinator and get someone to take over the playcalling. He's evidently exhausted from wearing two hats and it's starting to show. I was completely irate when we were in UVA territory and it was fourth and one and Fridge decides to punt as opposed to going for it. If MD got the first down, the game would've clearly been over. Instead, he goes the safe route and we pin Virginia down on our 10 yard line, forcing them to 90 yards in order to score - which they ultimately proceeded to do. Then, on top of everything else, every single call went Virginia's way in that playmaking drive. There were three controversial plays/penalties that didn't go the Terps way. Two of the three I agree with:
1) Pass interference by Kevin Barnes - He clearly had his hand wrapped around the receiver's waist so I'm not going to dispute this. My dad, who barely watches college football, was watching the game at home and even he thought it was blatantly obvious. Granted it was a ticky tack penalty called so late in the game but no dispute here.
2) Mikell Simpson diving into the endzone while fumbling the ball - touchdown called by the refs. Evidence concluded that the ball had crossed the plane before he lost the ball. Again, not disputing this.
3) The play that cost us the game was when UVA was fourth and four where Mikell Simpson ran the ball and somehow got the first down which set up the aforementioned touchdown. I will say, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was short. In fact, he was about 1.5 yards short. The refs completely screwed us over by giving him such a favorable spot. That play was the game essentially and the refs handed it to UVA. Contest me all you want but if the teams were reversed Virginia fans would be in an uproar as well. His foot was well out of bounds before he reached the first down marker with his arms extended. The ball is supposed to be marked down where the ball carrier goes out of bounds. Simpson even said himself he didn't think he got it. The booth reviewed the play but because players were blocking some of the camera angles they couldn't get a clear shot and was eventually ruled inconclusive. The Washington Post analyzes it further and this Baltimore Sun photo pretty much sums it up.
Am I bitter? Clearly. I stood in the stands stunned for about a minute after the game ended because I refused to believe we lost. It was the most heartbreaking defeat I've ever witnessed at Byrd Stadium. Again, Maryland's defense shouldn't have put itself in this position to begin with but it leaves a sour taste when a call that's supposed to go in your favor somehow goes against you.
One of the primary reasons we couldn't get our offense moving in the second was because offensive guard Jamie Thomas went down with a season-ending injury. It was the same injury Crummey suffered - a broken fibula. However, Thomas' injury is apparently worse and now we've lost our two starting guards for the rest of the year. On top of that, we're out of backups. We're only down to five (!) offensive linemen and this is cause for alarm. Another reason we were unproductive in the second half was because of DE Chris Long. Long is the real deal and we were doing a great job double-teaming the Top 10 pick until Thomas went down. I frankly can't remember a Maryland team plagued with so many serious injuries. I really don't know how we're going to bounce back from this loss. Clemson is next and thankfully it's at home but I'm honestly clueless as to where our season goes from here.