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Why one player is key to Maryland's small-ball hopes

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Why one player is key to Maryland's small-ball hopes

COLLEGE PARK -- The small-ball lineups that Maryland used extensively in Thursday’s win over Illinois simply were not feasible at different points earlier this season.

With Dion Wiley out for the season after undergoing knee surgery, head coach Mark Turgeon had to lean on other reserves in the backcourt rotation for production. The problem? Sophomore Jared Nickens slipped into the deepest shooting slump of his college career and junior-college transfer Jaylen Brantley had not yet adjusted to the Division I game.

“We didn’t really have much of a bench there for six weeks at the the guard position,” Turgeon said bluntly after the victory over Illinois. “They’re playing better now.”

After shooting 11-of-55 (20 percent) from three-point range over a 16-game stretch that spanned back to late December, Nickens is now 9-of-16 (56 percent) from deep over his last three.

What his re-emergence has allowed Turgeon to do is shift Jake Layman, who has played small forward all season, down to the power forward spot and insert Nickens as a wing player. He spreads the floor there alongside two guards and makes Maryland a much more well-spaced team offensively.

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That means better looks for shooters on the perimeter, more space for bigs to operate in the post, and more room for guards like Melo Trimble when penetrating into the paint.

“I think small-ball worked to our advantage offensive and defensively because Jake can guard threes and fours,” Nickens said on Saturday. “I think either lineup we have on the floor will help us.”

But shooting well alone didn’t allow Nickens to find a spot in the regular rotation when the Terrapins go small.

Had he not progressed defensively like he has this season, it still would not be possible. Nickens said he worked with strength and conditioning coach Kyle Tarp in the offseason on foot speed and awareness to help him progress.

“It’s huge for us,” Turgeon said. “Jared’s doing it on both ends.”

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Not the homecoming former Terp D.J. Moore was hoping for against the Redskins

Not the homecoming former Terp D.J. Moore was hoping for against the Redskins

Former Maryland Terrapin D.J. Moore made his first trip to FedEx field as an NFL star. His Carolina Panthers traveled up to Landover, Md. for a Week 6 matchup with the Washington Redskins.

However, it was not the homecoming he and the Panthers were hoping for. 

The first-round draft pick had two fumbles in the first half against the Redskins. Both were punch-outs due to Moore not holding the ball tight enough.

The wide receiver's first came as he fielded the Redskins' first punt of the afternoon.

The second being a fumble coming off of his first reception, punched out by Josh Norman, who had his best game as a Redskin.

Both plays had enough effort, probably too much. Moore was clearly trying to make something out of nothing and both times it cost him and the Panthers two key possessions on the road. 

First two touches, two fumbles. Not a good look. 

But in other Maryland Terps news, Vernon Davis did haul down the first touchdown of the game and Torrey Smith scored a late touchdown and converted the two-point conversion. 

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As one of the most penalized teams in college football, Maryland's penalty woes showed vs. Michigan

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As one of the most penalized teams in college football, Maryland's penalty woes showed vs. Michigan

On the field, it has been a season of ups and downs for the Maryland Terrapins. On Saturday, it became evident that the team's penalty issues are at epic proportions based on their loss to Michigan.

This season, Maryland is one of the most penalized teams in all of Division I football. 

No matter if the penalties are coming in wins or in losses, yellow flags have forced Maryland to dig themselves out of holes this season. Quickly these holes become insurmountable with the inconsistent offense the Terps have this season. 

Below is where they stand on the NCAA FBS Division I leaderboard:

  • Penalties per game (4th worst) - 9.8 penalties
  • Penalty yards per game (3rd worst) - 93.8 yards
  • 7 penalties per 100 plays (t-worst) 


This past Saturday against Michigan, their penalties were a significant factor in a loss for the first time this season. Twelve times the Terps were flagged, costing them 107 yards. 

The first major penalty was just after the Terps got a big kickoff return for a touchdown by Ty Johnson to give them an early 7-3 lead. Two scrimmage plays later, Darnell Savage got his second interception of the season on Michigan's side of the field with the upset in full swing. A holding penalty on the return pushed the Terps back to midfield where they would go three-and-out. 

That mistake, although minuscule at the time, cannot happen on the road against a top-25 opponent. A momentum-swinging play was diminished by the penalty and kept them from adding to their lead.  

The offense though was responsible for most of the dirty laundry on the field. Of their 12 penalties, half of them were on the offense. Five of those six were detrimental to their success. 

A holding penalty in the second quarter prevented the Terps from having the chance to answer Michigan's first touchdown of the game.

On the first drive of the second half for the Terps, three penalties in the first four plays pushed them back to a 4th-and-36. 

Although they converted a fourth-and-6 in the red zone, they got pushed back to that mark because of a false start the play prior. This was their first drive of the fourth where they were behind by three scores and desperately trying to come back.

In their Week 1 shocking upset over the ranked Texas Longhorns the team had eight penalties for 70 yards. This was the only game that their opponent committed more penalties.

The next week at Bowling Green (14 for 139 yards) was worse, at home vs. Temple (five penalties, 35 yards) and at Minnesota (10 penalties, 118 yards).

Currently, the team is sitting at 3-2 with a win over the No. 9 team in the country, Texas. Considering everything that has happened, and they are under interim head coach Matt Canada, they are rising above expectations. 

But by no means are there many confident in how the Terps have played this season. Mostly that is due to these penalties. 

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