Opportunity Knocks in Clemson, SC

Make no mistake. The Terps are a long shot to make the NCAAs. However, a loss at Clemson on Tuesday, will not eliminate the Terps. Maryland is not expected to beat the #8 team in the RPI on the road. So, the Terps have no expectations and nothing to lose. Add that to the fact that this is the MD’s only shot to gain a modicum of revenge against the team that ruined their season last year; and we have every reason to believe that this game will represent the Terps best effort this year.

Clemson is very good; but they have a history of fading down the stretch. The Tigers needed overtime to win at bottom-feeder Virginia on Sunday, so they can be beaten.

(Editor’s Note:  Clemson lost.  I’m an idiot and read the score wrong.   There is nothing to see here.  Move along.)

I still think the Terps need a miracle, but boy would a win be special. For a realistic shot at the Tournament, the Terps need to have and RPI in the low 40s at worst. At present, MD is #61. A road win (worth 1.6 wins in the RPI formula) against a top 10 team would probably vault the Terps 15-20 places. That would put the Terps right in the middle of the bubble discussion.

That my friends, is a lot to play for. Sure, the five games that follow Clemson won’t be easy; but a win and the Terps can start to believe in the impossible.

Terps Adjust, Beat Clemson!!!!

Wow.

I’m nearly speechless. For anyone who watched this team play in the first half, we had no business to be on the same field as Clemson. They ran it down our throats all day long in the first half. It was men against boys. The offense shot itself in the foot and settled for field goals.

But then…

It all turned around!

Chris Cosh has gotten his fair share of grief since he’s been running the defense, but he deserves all the credit for this win. Cosh made the necessary adjustments at the half and the defense took over the game, shutting the Tigers out and getting the offense back into the game emotionally.

The offense still needs work, but Darrius Heyward-Bey’s 76 yard reverse run woke everybody up as well. The team couldn’t play any worse in the first, yet was down just 11 points. That score in the 3rd quarter made the guys in white believe and this resurgent team just took over and came up with a huge, huge win.

Credit also needs to be given to Danny Oquendo. He came up with some huge catches and held onto the ball after some big hits. To have a secondary receiver make plays is a key to making this offense go. Great game Danny!

This team reminds me of the 2006 Terps. They never looked pretty, but somehow they won games. This was one of those games. Did they deserve to win? Hell yeah, but it was not pretty!

We need to give credit where credit is due. A lot of us (myself included) were ready to run the Fridge out of town after the loss to Middle Tennessee, but I want be the first to come out and say I was wrong. Sure, they have a maddening team sometimes that doesn’t play up to its potential, but the Fridge and his coaching staff deserve a ton of credit in how they have been able to get these kids to play hard and redeem themselves against Cal and now Clemson. This victory was even bigger than Cal because it was a road game and it was an ACC game. This should do wonders for the team’s confidence. Now they have to take the next step and go on the road against a pitiful Virginia team and pound them.

I’ll repeat what I said after Cal. The Middle Tennessee game was horrible, but this win over Clemson was a bigger win than that game was a brutal loss. Once again, the Terps will be seen all over ESPN for the rest of the day. They’ll be on the bottom line scoreboard and highlights a plenty for the rest of the day. You can’t buy that kind of press. This team may now be ranked in some polls, so it’s time for them to realize they can be buried again with one loss to UVA. Let’s go out there and make a run for the conference title. They’ve proven they can do it, now go do it!

Can the Terps Defy Death (Valley)?

Winning a football game in Death Valley is a rare occurance for Clemson opponents. Few venues in the ACC boast a larger capacity than the 81,473 seats in Memorial Stadium. The Terps have posted victories in Death Valley only three times since 1985- roughly 27% of the time.

The odds are against the Terps this time around too. Before the season started, every prognosticator practically handed the Tigers the ACC Title. Clemson possessed arguably the best QB in the ACC in Cullen Harper, and the best HB tandem in the country: James Davis and CJ Spiller. On paper, the Terps had no chance to beat Clemson on the road.

Then the season started. While Clemson’s backfield is still as talented as anyone’s; the Tigers struggled mightily out of the gate. Alabama rolled over Clemson in their season opener 34-10. Suddenly Clemson didn’t look so tough. However, it turns out that Alabama is a damn good team. They are blowing out everybody. Losing a nuetral site contest against the Crimson Tide suddenly doesn’t look so bad.

What’s more, Clemson has looked good since losing in week 1. They dismantled NC State (who just beat an excellent East Carolina team) and have been thrashing inferior opponents (something the Terps have not be able to accomplish).

Is Maryland up to the challenge? Physically, the answer is yes. Da’Rell Scott may be better than either of Clemson’s runners. Chris Turner has gotten better each week since taking over the starting job. Maryland has a bigger win to its resume than any victory Clemson has achieved. The Terps redeemed the entire ACC with their huge upset of California, but questions remain.

Can the defense keep the opposing team from stringing together long drives? So far the answer to that question has been “sometimes”. Terps defensive coordinator, Chris Cosh, has shown a reluctance to blitz. In my completely unprofessional opinion, college teams need to blitz. The opposing QB is always going to be a young kid between 18-22 years old. Force said youngster into bad decisions by bringing pressure! Resfusing to blitz is almost unheard of in football. It means the QB can sit back in the pocket and wait for receivers to get open. Simply put, Cosh’s scheme puts way too pressure on the secondary to make plays. For the Terps to win on Saturday, this needs to change. It is time for Cosh to show us something.

Can the Terps win on the road? Last year, the answer was “yes” The big win at Rutgers proved that the Terps can get it done. This year’s loss to Middle Tennessee State (shuddering) changed that perspective. If Maryland can’t beat a Sun Belt team filled with SEC cast-offs; how can they win in Death Valley?

I think the key for Maryland will be to control the time of possession by orchestrating long drives that utilize the Terps breadth of backfield talent. I think Da’Rell Scot is already the best tailback to wear a Terp uniform since Lamont Jordan and when it is all said and done; he could be the best ever. Maryland will need to lean on Mr. Scott on Saturday if we are to eke out a win.

Secondly, our kicker, Egekesaouiewfwe will need to get off the schnide. (I mentioned in an earlier game thread that I won’t refer to him by his given name until he gets himself out of the doghouse. Sorry, garbage kicks against E. Michigan won’t do it). The kid may be given the opportunity to be the hero on Saturday. He needs to seize the moment and make the most of his chances. The Terps have no margin for error. If we have a chance to put 3 points on the board, we have to be successful every time. No excuses.

There you have it. If Maryland’s defense plays aggressively (read: blitzes); if the offense controls the time of possession, and if our kicker doesn’t miss any FG attempts; the Terps might actually pull out a victory. That’s three if’s.

What do you think? Can they do it? I posted a poll on the right hand side. Is Turtle Soup made up of a bunch of homers or a bunch of pessimists?

Show Me

Spending eight days in South America has a way of putting things into perspective. For example, in Buenos Aires, the biggest sports rivalry is the intra-city feud between the Boca Juniors and River Plate. Think of it as Maryland – Duke, with River Plate playing the role of Duke (their fans are known as Los Millionarios). The Boca Juniors are named after one of the poorest barrios; but they had Diego Maradona and have often gotten the best of their rivals many many times (something the Terps have only done recently with Duke).

Last month, a member of a group of Boca Junior’s most ardent supporters, known as the Barras Bravas, murdered another Brava member in cold blood on the streets of Buenos Aires. The murder was the result of inter-fan rivalries within the Boca fan base. I tell you this because I hope it serves as some perspective as to the balance between individuality and sports fanatacism. Unlike poor Argentines, our fanhood is not mixed with the kind of poverty and desperation that can drive someone to murder someone else over a soccer team. For that, we all need to be thankful.

Against this backdrop, I logged on to Turtle Soup last Monday and read about the Comcast Collapse. I tried to put things in context. After all, I was surrounded by 45 Million Argentines who not only didn’t care about the Clemson game, but had never even heard of the Maryland Terrapins. Still, reading about the 20-point collapse and your reaction to it, was one of the hardest things I have ever had to fathom as a sports fan. It is only surpassed by the 2001 Duke loss (gone in 53 seconds).

As the team and the fan base tries to pick up the pieces from last Sunday, I can only wish for one thing: that our Terps prove to me, the selection committee, and most importantly, to themselves; that they can play a complete game for 40 minutes. I desperately want them to make the Tournament (Remember, I’m an Oriole fan, this is all I have until September), but at this point, I’d rather just see them finish a game. Win or lose tonight, if they show me that; I’ll be happy.

Final Home Game… We Hope.

Well, this is it.

It’s a big night. Sunday night hoops. On all over the country. A perfect time to make a statement to the selection committee. You got a chance to go 9-6 in the ACC against a top 50 RPI team. This is what they play for. So, why am I so nervous?

Because these are our Terps.

It’s neat to see the projections of the conference standings and the RPI, but we just need to win this game tonight and then we can worry about that stuff. The Terps lose this one and it’s pretty much over, barring a major run in the ACC tournament. On the flip side, Clemson is coming in thinking a win over the Terps on the road will punch their ticket to the big dance.

It’s the biggest game of the year. And if they win, NEXT sunday will be the biggest game of the year.

Keys to Victory:

— Obviously James Gist ending his career at Comcast Center (hopefully) with a big game. We don’t need 30, but we need 20+. Gist cannot get frustrated if it’s not falling early or if he picks up a foul or two. We need him at his best.

— I’m asking too much to get ‘Good’ Greivis all game long. ‘Bad’ Greivis will emerge at some point, but as long as we get more ‘good’ than ‘bad’, we should be okay.

— LIMIT TURNOVERS! And by that I mean 15 or less. It’s asking too much to keep the turnovers in single digits, especially with the way Clemson plays. We are a generous team and we need to be as smart as we can possibly be.

— Defensive intensity. Fight through screens, get in their faces and defend the 3 point shot.

— Jump on them early. We’ve had good starts and bad starts, but this one needs to be a good start. If we can get the crowd going early (and they should be out of their freaking mind tonight), then perhaps they will start feeling the pressure. That way, when we go a couple minutes without hitting a shot, it won’t be the end of the world.

— Finally and most important…. HELP! Gist and Vasquez cannot lead the way all by themselves like they had to on Thursday. This is not Wake. Clemson is good. The Terps need 2 other players to have big games. Osby should be back to full strength, or close to it, after his flu. Hayes needs to hit some shots. Milbourne needs a bounce back game. And the bench needs to contribute something. Anything. Energy, points, defense… something.

The Terps have played very few complete games this season, so it’s probably asking too much to expect one tonight, but they don’t need a complete game to win this. They just need to play smart, get contributions, and play with aggression.

A Phoenix From the Ashes

7 days ago, the Terps were a talented team that had woefully underacheived, squandered an impressive start, and seem destined to destroy the program. After today’s gi-normous victory at Clemson, the Terps are riding a three game winning streak, have won four of five (including three straight road wins) and have reached the upper-division of the ACC. What a roller coaster!

How did we get here? Yahoo Sports and all of the other popular websites that produce the box scores will list DJ Strawberry as the star of the game. After all, he did score the most points. Those of us who watched the game know different. Greivis Vasquez played the best game of his short Maryland career today. He finished with 11 assists (which explain 3/4 of DJ’s points). It was a virtuoso performance. Aside from Strawberry playing the role of finisher to perfection, Gist and Hayes also played well. I love what Osby gave us when our bigs got in foul trouble (although, I could have done without all of those Clemson offensive rebounds he was letting up). It was a team effort today.

7 days ago, who could have imagined this? It begs the question, how far can this team go? I’m not ready to go there, but what I am ready to talk about is the talent that is beginning to come out of its shell. Pun intended.

There are three guys on this team that I could see in the NBA one day. Vasquez, Gist, and Hayes. The reasons for Vasquez and Gist are obvious, but Hayes makes the list simply because if Stevie Blake can dish out 7 dimes a game for the Nuggets; why can’t this kid? In some ways, he is further developed than Blake at this stage. He will be great by the time he is done in CP.

But let’s get back to Vasquez and Gist for a moment. Did you see these two in the first half? Gist was draining 15 footers and dunking. Vasquez was just dominant. Playmaker, scorer, defender– he did it all. Vasquez is the best freshman in the ACC not wearing Carolina blue and Gist has made a case for All-ACC honors (not first team, but likely second team).

It’s hard to criticize on a day like today, but I still don’t trust our seniors and here’s why:

-Ibekwe: there was one sequence that sparked Clemson’s comeback when the following happened: Ibekwe got the rebound, hurried a pass that got intercepted, and then let up an easy basket. Where is the leadership? He is constantly in foul trouble, and I don’t think he has ever finished a three-point play
– DJ: Clemson was in the midst of their run, Strawberry received a pass, stepped back, and promptly airballed a three point attempt. Not exactly what I would call a good shot.

– MJ: Did you see that insane baseline turnaround that missed the hoop by about three feet? Yeesh.
– Bowers: Overall he played well but he gets no respect from the officials. I mean ZERO. Maybe it’s his two left feet, or his concrete hands; but the guy is incapable of getting a charge call on defense or get fouled in the act of shooting. It’s as if the officials refuse to believe a guy that unathletic could possibly get to the spot early or miss a shot that badly because he was hacked. It’s the anti-Jordan rules.

As you can see, the underclassman, have been and must continue to carry the day. FSU is reeling, but gave UVA a serious test over the weekend and will not go quietly. The Terps need to carry their competitive fire over to Wednesday at Comcast. A win will virtually assure a .500 conference record and will in all likelihood seal an NCAA bid. It does not get much bigger than that, so Greivis and the boys need to treat it as such.

From what I have seen over the last 7 days, I’m inclined to expect it. If we stop FSU, then Terp Nation can contemplate a Tournament run. We are peaking at the right time. Can you believe it?

We’re Back– Almost

That was a wonderful win. First of all let me thank my fiance Ms. Turtle Soup (I got engaged last weekend) for allowing me to watch the Terp game during our Valentine’s Day dinner.

What I saw was a team that played to their strengths (strong guard play, Straw and MJ taking what the defense gives them, and aggressive shot blocking). Say what you want about a crappy NC State team, but a road win is a road win. The second half was great.

So the Terps have one of the three “must wins” under their belt. Next up is a suddenly reeling Clemson. As strange as it sounds, I almost wish they had the Tigers had won tonight. Clemson will be in desperate need of a win on Sunday, which means they may be “hungrier” than the Terps. The Terps have been playing with their backs against wall the last two games and the results speak for themselves.

(Speaking of playing with your back against the wall, Duke is destroying BC right now. Urgency is a great substitute for talent, when one team plays with it and the other team does not).

So when the Terps head to Clemson, they will be playing a team that will have that urgency. Will the Terps have lost theirs after two straight wins? I sure hope not. A win on Sunday and the Terps will have to play themselves OUT of the NCAA Tournament (hard to believe but it is true).

Earlier in the season, I would have penciled this in as a loss; but I just get the feeling that something has turned with this team. They hit rock bottom with the home loss against UVa and while they were at the bottom, they found themselves. I’m reminded of the Florida State loss in 2001. Those Terps were run out of Cole to chants of “NIT” that night.  Somehow they fixed whatever it was that needed fixing and they wound up in the Final Four.  What is reminiscent to me is that in both cases, the problem for both Terp squads is/was mental.

I think it is safe to say that the Final Four is not in the cards for this team, but I do think that have experienced a similar metamorphosis. They believe in themselves again and after the last two performances, I think Terp Nation is starting to as well.

Envision a win at Clemson. Seize it boys. Now is the time to take control of your destiny.

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