Maryland Terps

No. 25 WVU using bye week to address problems

No. 25 WVU using bye week to address problems

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) The defense stinks. The offense is stuck in neutral.

Every game from here on out is a must-win or No. 25 West Virginia will likely fall short of its preseason goal of going to a BCS bowl.

A two-game losing streak is on hold temporarily as the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) use a bye week to pay closer attention to their many problems.

``Nobody's pointing fingers anywhere,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. ``We all understand that we have to continue to as coaches put them in position to be successful, teach them how their technique is, teach them how they make the plays, build confidence in them to where they can do it, and then get out there and work hard on it.''

West Virginia went 1-2 in October, the first time since 2001 that the Mountaineers had a losing record in the month.

Their uncharacteristic losing ways have some players wanting to face an opponent right away.

That includes wide receiver Tavon Austin, who scored West Virginia's only two touchdowns in last week's blowout loss to No. 4 Kansas State. The nation's all-purpose yards leader from last season is averaging 203 yards a game, second to Kent State's Dri Archer.

``The bye probably would be good for us right now,'' Austin said. ``But at the same time we can beat up on each other in practice all day. But if we go against somebody else (and don't play well), then what's the point of the bye week?

``I want to get it on now. I don't want to wait anymore.''

Ditto for offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who doesn't believe an entire season hinges on a few losses.

``It's like everything in life,'' Dawson said. ``There's going to be good days and bad days. So we have to stay positive and just keep forging ahead. That's the only way you work yourself out of a rut, in my opinion.''

The focus of this week's patch-up efforts starts with a young defense, which has been forced to use numerous freshmen and sophomores.

In addition to allowing the most passing yards of any FBS team, the Mountaineers have three total sacks and made one interception over their last three games. The unit has done a respectable job against the run but must do better in other areas.

Defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said that includes ``creating turnovers, three-and-outs, tackling. When we get them in a passing situation, we've got to make sure we get off the field.''

On offense, after throwing 24 touchdown passes in his first five games, quarterback Geno Smith has just two in the last two weeks. Holgorsen would like to see better pass protection to enable Smith to throw downfield more often.

Smith blamed himself after the Kansas State loss for not doing a better job of leadership. Holgorsen said he's talked to Smith about that.

``If he thinks that all this falls on his shoulders, he's sadly mistaken,'' Holgorsen said. ``He needs to relax a little bit and not bear that burden. That's not his job. We're going to get him back on track from the standpoint of just worrying what he needs to control.''

Lately, good weeks of practice haven't translated to solid games. The Mountaineers have been outscored 104-28 in losses to Kansas State and No. 15 Texas Tech and find themselves needing a turnaround to keep pace with the first-place Wildcats (7-0, 4-0).

There are games against four of the six teams that are tied with or ahead of the Mountaineers in the Big 12 standings, starting Nov. 3 at home against TCU (5-2, 2-2). The Horned Frogs will be West Virginia's third straight opponent allowing fewer than 330 yards a game. Only two FBS teams have more interceptions than TCU's 14.

Last year in its final season in the Big East, the Mountaineers trailed by two games in the loss column with three weeks left in the season. They won their three remaining games, teams ahead of them lost and West Virginia earned the league's automatic BCS berth.

``We bounced back last year,'' Holgorsen said. ``This is different because of who we're playing. We're playing some pretty good teams.''

Staying patient with the game plan will be key. Holgorsen said he tells his players all the time that if they are going to rely on the coaching staff to make the perfect call every single play, then failure is inevitable.

``Nobody can do that. Nobody can make the perfect call all the time,'' he said. ``So we can put you in position the best we possibly can. We need to do a better job.''

Quick Links

Maryland goes toe to toe with Ohio State, but ultimately falls to the Buckeyes

USA Today Sports Images

Maryland goes toe to toe with Ohio State, but ultimately falls to the Buckeyes

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Relentlessly zipping up and down the field, ninth-ranked Ohio State and upstart Maryland were racking up yards and points at a dizzying pace.

Finally, the Terrapins were presented with the chance to end it -- one way or another.

A gutsy decision by Maryland interim coach Matt Canada did not achieve the desired results, and the Buckeyes avoided one of the most stunning upsets in this college football season by squeezing out a 52-51 victory in overtime on Saturday.

After a 5-yard touchdown run by Dwayne Haskins gave the Buckeyes a seven-point lead to start overtime, Tayon Fleet-Davis scored for the Terrapins. Canada opted to keep his offense on the field to attempt a 2-point conversion, and Tyrrell Pigrome's pass to Jeshaun Jones was off target .

"It was a gut call," Canada said. "I felt like they were scoring, we were scoring. We had the ball, we had to make one play to win. Obviously it didn't work. I wasn't trying to be aggressive. I was just trying to win."

After watching his defense allow 535 yards and seven touchdowns, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer understood why Canada opted to win it right there.

"I would have probably done the same thing if I was their coach, the way they were gaining yards on us," Meyer said. "I'm relieved we won."

Favored by 14 points, Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten, No. 10 CFP) trailed by two touchdowns in the third quarter and 45-38 with under two minutes left before rallying.

The victory kept the Buckeyes in the hunt for the Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State concludes the regular season next week in a game against Michigan that will decide the Big Ten East winner.

After describing the performance of his defense as "alarming," Meyer said, "But we won. Let's go back to work and get ready for next week."

The Buckeyes never led until overtime against the gritty Terrapins (5-6, 3-5), who have made the most of a season dedicated to teammate Jordan McNair, who died of heatstroke in June. The players teamed together under the guidance of Canada, who maintained his role of offensive coordinator after taking over for head coach DJ Durkin, who was placed on administrative leave in August, reinstated on Oct. 30 and fired on Oct. 31.

On this day, the Terps traded blows with one of the best teams in the nation, and stuck in it to the end.

"I wish we had been a little bit better on the last play," Canada said. "It's a tough day. We put a lot into this."

Pigrome was making his first start of the season after Kasim Hill sustained a season-ending knee injury last week. He went 6 for 13 for 181 yards.

Haskins ran for three touchdowns and was 28 for 38 for 405 yards and three TDs. Ohio State finished with a whopping 688 yards, including 203 on the ground by J.K. Dobbins.

All that offense meant nothing until Pigrome's pass went about six inches wide of his intended target.

"For us to stop them on a 2-point conversion, a whole bunch of emotions just came out of me," Haskins said. "All that grit, all that adversity we faced in this game, to come back on top just meant everything for myself and my teammates."

Maryland freshman Anthony McFarland had touchdown runs of 81 and 75 yards in the first quarter and finished with 298 yards rushing -- seven short of the school's single-game record.

The Terps took a 45-38 lead when Chigoziem Okonkwo recovered a fumble by McFarland in the end zone with 1:41 left. Haskins then orchestrated a 50-yard, beat-the-clock drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Binjimen Victory with 40 seconds remaining.

Quick Links

Terps show resiliency, but fall shy of major upset against Ohio State

USA Today Sports Images

Terps show resiliency, but fall shy of major upset against Ohio State

So. That game, huh? Where do you even begin after a game like that?

The Maryland Terrapins, playing in their home finale, on Senior Day, against top-10 ranked Ohio State, put up one heck of a fight. The Terps got touchdown runs of 75 and 81 yards from Anthony McFarland, the redshirt freshman running back sensation who accumulated 299 yards on the day. His brief exit after a shoulder injury is the only reason he didn't reach 300, and is likely the only reason he still sits at second all-time in Maryland history for rushing yards in a single game, instead of first.

The defense shined as well. It's a strange thing to say after a team gives up 52 points, but they clamped down on OSU throughout the first half, and recorded three takeaways, enough to give them a chance at the win. It was all you could have asked for.

Tyrrell Pigrome also had some incredible moments on the day. The only pass he completed in the first half (seriously, the Terps led at halftime despite completing just ONE pass), was a 56-yard bomb that fell perfectly into the hands of Dontay Demus. Pigrome could not have placed it more perfectly if he had walked it to Demus and handed it to him. It was a thing of beauty, and wouldn't be the only deep pass Pigrome made look effortless today.

Unfortunately, despite the many, many highs for Maryland today, what will probably be remembered is the lowest low. Unfortunately for Pigrome, it also came from him.

In the first overtime, Maryland elected to start on defense. The unit actually held up decently well, but an untimely penalty and a bold fourth-down call gave the Buckeyes all they needed to go up seven.

The Terps struck quickly with Anthony McFarland immediately bursting forward for 24 yards. It appeared he might have had a touchdown, but it was overturned. The Terps scored on the next play, and without hesitation, interim head coach Matt Canada decided to go for a two point conversion and the win.

Considering that the Terps were two touchdown underdogs entering the day, and that the Buckeyes had scored touchdowns on four straight possessions, and how dominant the run game had been all afternoon, it was easy to agree with Canada's call.

The play design even worked splendidly, as Pigrome rolled to his right and had an underneath pass available to Tayon Fleet-Davis, or a wide open Jeshaun Jones sitting in the end zone. Pigrome opted for Jones, but anticipated the freshman wide receiver would keep moving to his right, and the ball sailed past the outstretched hands of the diving wideout. Perhaps a more seasoned quarterback-receiver duo would have been more in sync, but Pigrome, in his first start of the season, didn't have that luxury.

Right decision. Right play call. Wrong page. Game over.

Hindsight is 20/20, and as is always the case, some fans on Twitter were perplexed. Why go for two at home? Why not try to let Ohio State make a mistake on the road, especially when they'd been so sloppy all afternoon?

The truth is, Maryland needed to win this game in regulation, and they couldn't do it. Then, they managed to fight back yet again during this trying year, and put themselves in a position to win with just two yards.

If you asked Canada, Pigrome, McFarland, and every other person in Maryland Stadium today if they'd take a one play opportunity from the two-yard line to beat Ohio State, but you'd lose if you didn't convert, every one of them to a man would have taken that chance.

Disappointing results shouldn't detract from the correct process. This was the best-coached game Canada had all season long (or at the very worst since the opener against Texas) and the final call was no exception.

Ultimately, Maryland fans will move past the loss as they would any other. They'll move on to the Penn State game, or to Maryland Basketball, or the Redskins or Ravens in Week 11. It's only sports, after all, and there's always another game.

If there's anyone to feel for, it's the kids who have proudly worn the Maryland flag on their jerseys every game day this season. The kids who have lost more than most fans can truly appreciate, who have been betrayed by the men who were supposed to look after them. The kids who have inspired fans across the country with their pride, their resolve, and their bond with their brothers. The kids who have given it their all at every opportunity, and represented the university with the utmost honor, who have made alumni proud every single day.

They fought harder than ever before, and it's a darn shame that they fell short on such an emotional day. Hopefully, they can once again fight back and show how much heart they have next week against Penn State.

Based on all we've seen this season, I'd be surprised if they didn't.