Duke Preview. Will It Be Jeckyl Or Hyde?

What’s going to happen tomorrow night?  Does anyone actually know?  Does Gary Williams know which version of the Terps will show up?  Would you be willing to bet one way or another as to which team will show up?  Will MD get blown out by 40 or will they punch their ticket with an emphatic win?

I sure as hell don’t know. What I do know is that if the Terps can do what they did on Saturday (shoot 40% from three, get a Cliff Tucker-like performance from someone; and block nine more shots than their opponents); then the Terps will win.  Of that there is no doubt.

We’ve been here before.  Just last year, MD was fresh off their monumental upset of UNC and then lost a heart breaker to Duke.  It was a heart breaker because the Terps had a 10 point lead at halftime and lost it going away.  Looking back, it is clear to me that the Duke loss last year started MD on a path the led to many more second-half collapses in the ensuing 12 months.

Tomorrow is an opportunity to complete the redemption.  Like a Phoenix from the ashes, the Terps can exorcise the demons– literally.  It won’t be easy.  Duke is a much different team than UNC.  As has been noted by readers on this site; Duke plays much more aggressive defense.  Duke forces you to take care of the basketball and the Terps did not do that at all last month during the 40 point debacle.

And that brings me to Mr. Grievis Vasquez. Despite notching a triple double.  Vasquez did commit 7 turnovers.  Those are the kind of numbers he turned in last year.  Not coincidentally, Greivis took over the point guard duties against UNC.  Add that wrinkle to Duke’s aforementioned aggressive man-to-man defense, and the Terps could be walking back into the same buzzsaw that blew us out by 40.

That’s  my fear.  My hope is that the Terps finally turned a corner on Saturday.  The 40 point blow out to Duke is but a distant memory never to return.  The Terps will shoot consistently from three and not allow themselves to ever be mentally taken out a game again.

In reality; I don’t think either scenario is true.  I think the Terps will perform better than normal; but not as strongly as they did on Saturday.  I just wonder if they can win without a perfect performance.

As fans, we all want to win this game so badly; but let’s not allow ourselves to get overwhelmed by hope.  We may win; but a loss will not end the season.  The sun will rise in College Park on Thursday morning and Duke will still suck regardless of the outcome.

Charlotte at Home = Trap Game

Charlotte is dangerous. They lost to Clemson by 1 point. Last year, the Terps won on the road in what at the time, signaled a brief resurgence that culminated with our victory at UNC a few weeks later. This time around, the Terps are looking to keep their longest winning streak in two years alive as they head into the conference schedule.

The Terps can’t afford to overlook Charlotte. They have good athletes and can shoot the ball. Maryland is capable of playing poorly (see Georgetown), but that should not happen today. Just don’t expect another cupcake-style blowout. We should be happy with a “W” of any kind, but I’m think we win by 10-15 points.

George Washington Preview and Thread

My slingbox is out of commission, so I will have to follow the proceedings online. GW is rebuilding. The Colonials didn’t even finish over .500 last year (figures we played VCU last year in the BB&T) and are looking to rebound.

Their squad is young and has some talent; but the Terps have no excuse to lose tonight. Maryland should win by 15-20 points.

I like the leadership that I have seen from Vasquez and the Terps have been rebounding well as a team. I’m excited to see them string two good games together. I hope that is the case tonight.

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?

Eastern Michigan Preview and Game Thread

Now, this is exciting.  The Terps are playing a “Directional” Michigan University.  Wow.  Hold on to your hats. (Note: I get this same feeling of excitement every time I drive through Delaware).  Maryland’s goal tomorrow should be to prevent the classic Maryland letdown.

Given that this team has demonstrated an epic ability to underachieve; the Fridge should be threatening to demote starters if they sleepwalk through the first half tomorrow.  I just read through some stuff about Eastern Michigan and there really isn’t much to talk about it.  QB Andy Schmitt was sixth in the MAC in efficiency rating last year.  OK.  That tells me nothing.

EMU runs the spread offense.  Maryland plays poorly against the spread.  I’m still not concerned. Let’s face it.  This is a tune-up game that the Terps aren’t able to treat as one thanks to the defeat in Murfreesboro.  Specifically because of the MTSU defeat; a similar result won’t occur tomorrow.  Sure, everyone else Terpville is thinking about Clemson, but not the kids on the field.  There is too much to work do.

Turner needs to be crisper.  The backup RBs need more reps.  The defense needs to put in a full 60 minutes of 100% effort. And Lord knows that our FG kicker needs some confidence. Get that kid some reps for Pete’s sake!

I’m expecting a two to three TD victory margin.  Anything else will leave me with lingering doubts as we head into Death Valley.

Despite my confidence about a victory tomorrow; I’m still not sold on our Terps.  Even in the afterglow of the Cal victory, the MTSU loss is still on my mind. My eternal hope is that the Terps and their fans will not be kicking themselves at the end of the season over the Fridge’s stupid loyalty to Jordan Steffy.  With a weakened ACC, we will all be feeling the sting of the MTSU loss come bowl time.

For those planning to attend, enjoy the game tomorrow.  Otherwise, I’ll see you on the Soup.

They Can’t Win (& Cal Game Thread)

I don’t mean the Terps can’t win the game against Cal on Saturday. They might.

I mean the Terps can’t win in the media, and that’s not a good sign for this program.

First let me say I’m as frustrated as anyone in the Terps inconsistencies in the past 4 seasons. They have not earned the benefit of the doubt in any way, but the way some of the media (notably David Steele of the Sun, and we’ll get to him in a second) have bashed this team borders on unfair. I’m not saying they don’t deserve criticism, but in today’s world the way the newspapers cover the team has a huge affect on recruiting and like I said earlier, this is not a good sign.

All week, most of the newspapers and “insiders” have asked for predictions and dug up former Terp players for their insight on the team. One notable former player Lamont Jordan took a mighty shot at the Fridge and basically said all his success was due to the players Mike Locksley recruited. Now there is a discussion to be had about Locksley’s departure and the success he has had in pretty much every school he’s coached at, but to say that the Fridge had very little to do with the success is plain wrong and unfair. He seems overmatched in the past few years and it could be time to start talking about a replacement, but he has still led the team to 5 bowl games in 7 years and anyone who was watching this team in the 90’s would have given anything for that. I’m not saying he should be safe or off the hot seat, but it’s not all him.

The column I read that made me want to write this was from Steele of the Sun today. His column pretty much said that if the Terps beat Cal, it wouldn’t mean anything, it would just be a tease. He states facts from the previous few years that Maryland has played well against top teams, but doesn’t seem to get up for the lesser teams. We all know that to be true, but to come out and say a win means nothing is ridiculous. Every game is big for this program and beating a ranked team is a major accomplisment whenever you do it. I understand Steele’s point, but it just seems like the Terps just can’t win in his eyes. If they lose, well, they suck. If they win, it’s just a tease and they still will underachieve. I know he’s paid to give his opinions, I just don’t agree with this one.

Look, I just want to see some fairness. Everyone on that coaching staff works hard and while we would like to see some changes or at least some changes in philosophy, it’s not right to bash them like that. It seems so many of those columnists or ‘insiders’ just want to make headlines and say outlandish things to get people to read and react to their websites. It’s like sports radio, and we know that sports radio has very little to do with facts. Leave the bitching and moaning and negative rants to the bloggers and be a little more fair.

I may be overreacting to the article, but as a die hard fan of the Terps, I want to see my school do well and I want them to play on a fair playing field. We all know changes have to be made, but if they were to win this game, it would be huge and perhaps a start to a memorable season. It might be a tease again, but I’d rather get a win and take it from there. Then again, we might get creamed on national TV and the frustration will continue to build. Whatever happens, I’ll try and treat this team fair.

Now bring on the Bears and let’s see if we can give them a game!

Game 1 – Delaware

Alright Soupers. Game 1 of the football season is upon us. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to finally see some Terps football after last season left a bad taste in all of our mouths after the offensive collapse against Oregon State, and the 3 tough winable games that our boys just could not get.

It’s a new year with a new Offensive Coordinator and some new and exciting players. I’m interested to see how Kenny Tate plays in our defensive backfield. What about Davin Meggett as our backup running back? He seems to have all the goods for a youngster. Of course the story of this team and perhaps what will define this season and maybe even Ralph Freidgen’s tenure in College Park is the Quarterback race.

The Fridge has chosen Jordan Steffy and it’s up to us to support that decision until Steffy proves himself one way or another. We’ll see, but for the sake of this season I think we all hope Steffy can get it done.

As for our first opponent, devoted Souper Wheels gave us a nice preview and I’ll reprint it here:

Delaware returns 6 starters on offense and 8 on defense. They run a 1 back, 3 wide with a TE offense. Their top returning RB ran for 395 yards last year (playing behind a 1,500+ yard and 20+ rushing TD All American), and they have a fairly large O line (6’3” 285 lb average) with only 2 returning starters. All three receivers are under 6’, although one caught 73 balls last year for just over 1K yards.

On defense they run a standard 4-3 set. They return 7 of their back 8 players (LBs and DBs), including their top 2 tacklers. All three LBs have really good size (all 6’2” 230 lbs). Both DTs are new starters but have some size (both listed above 285 lbs). Of course, being a D1AA school, Delaware’s size really falls off after the starters.

We all know that Delaware has one of the top D1AA programs in the nation, and the preseason rankings reflect their success (Delaware is a preseason Top 10 pick in almost every forecast). The program is used to winning, so they won’t be awed by MD’s stadium, fans, or red jerseys. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a close game at the half, although I am hoping it is not close.

If Ralphie was calling the plays, I’d expect 3 yards and a cloud of dust against Delaware. He would just want to grind out a win, taking advantage of MD’s size and depth. Having seen a couple KSU games over the past 2 years, I think that Franklin might come out calling a bit of a loose game. So much of this team depends on the confidence of their offense, specifically at the QB spot. This is a game where MD should have the back ups in after the 1st drive of the second half. That’s what I’ll be looking for. If Steffy is still in there halfway through the 3rd quarter, I tend to think that the game will be close.

So Terp fans out there, what do YOU want to see out of this first game? What would define as success in the season opener? And how are you all who do not have DirecTV going to watch it!?

***Note to all readers and posters****

Unfortunately, our powers that be are shutting down MVN this weekend for a major upgrade. The upgrade is not unfortunate as the sites should be much improved, but we will not be able to post from Saturday morning thru Monday night. I would have loved to have put up a thread to discuss the game this weekend, but Turtle Soup will have to wait until Tuesday morning to talk about the season opener. Thanks for everyone’s patience and Go Terps!!

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.

Good Terps vs. Bad Terps

Today, the Terps will be fighting a battle against themselves. At stake is the entire 2007-08 season. That’s it. Everything else is verbal masterbation.

For my own health and sanity, I have avoided writing about, discussing, or dissecting Wednesday night’s loss. I am afraid that Mr. Hyde (aka Bad Terps) has re-emerged. I will find out along with the rest of Terp Nation if my fears have come true later this afternoon.

Terps Soaring Into Cameron

The Terps recent surge reminds of the 2001 team. I need not remind of you that season. The unspeakable loss to Duke (gone in 53 seconds) followed by the collapse at home to Florida State. Gary and Juan Dixon somehow resurrected that team and they crowned their comeback with a win at Cameron Indoor Stadium that February.

My Dad gave me play by play as I waited in LAX for a flight. I had a conniption fit in the United Terminal because I knew right then that those Terps were special. Like a Phoenix from the ashes, the 2001 Terps were reborn as champions from the trash heap of those earlier losses. American U and Ohio U are not Duke and Florida State, but history has a chance to repeat itself on Wednesday.

This season is quickly becoming one of the most satisfying campaigns in Terp history. The Terp “Phoenix” has not quite risen yet; but it is starting to flap its wings. What started as a rumble in Chapel Hill in January has become a full fledged roar as the Terps head into Durham on Wednesday. Sure, Duke taught our Terps a well needed lesson two weeks ago in College Park, but boy did our boys take good notes. Four straight wins later, and Gary Williams has the Terps poised to become a great team.

Gary Williams knows how to beat Duke. Jim Gist and Boom Osby know how to beat Duke. So do Vasquez and Hayes. They have all won at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Vasquez is enjoying the most consistent stretch of his young career and you can tell how badly he and the rest of the Terps want to win. A win on Wednesday and their are no more doubters.

What I love the most about this attitude is that Maryland, for the first time in nearly two months, doesn’t actually “need” to win this game. A loss, and the Terps still control their own destiny with a relatively favorable schedule down the stretch. But that means little to these guys. Only the next game matters, and when that next game happens to be against Duke, well watch out.

Gary Williams has this team believing that they can beat anyone at anytime, and you know what? They can. If Jim Gist and Greivis are playing at their current level, the Terps may just be unstoppable. Vasquez and Gist are making it easy for the other players to do what they do.

Hayes has found a mid-range game. Osby is a rebounding, shot-blocking force with just enough post moves to keep his defenders honest. Milbourne has turned into an slashing three and an efficient defender.

I’m starting to fall in love with this team. Sure, the bench is young and thin, but it seems as though at least one of the four guys Gary rotates off the bench each game comes up big on any given night.

On Wednesday, I’m afraid that we will need contributions from everyone, but the recipe for winning is simple. You don’t need to be Gary Williams to know the following:

  • Pound the ball into Gist and Osby. Singler, Henderson, Zoubek, et.al. are no match for them down low.
  • Take care of the rock and limit turnovers.
  • Defend against the three
  • Do not let Duke spread the floor and allow Henderson and Nelson to go one on one

Everyone who follows these teams knows exactly what Maryland and Duke like to do. There are no secrets. Who’s boys are better? Despite the records, I feel pretty good about our surging Terrapins. Cameron Indoor Stadium harbors no mystique for the guys in red.

Duke fans and players can claim that we “aren’t their rivals”, but on Wednesday, they better act like we are. If they don’t, they will be heading back to their dorm rooms with an “L” and Maryland will officially be titled the “Best 17-8 team in the history of college basketball”.

Of course, Maryland is playing at Duke, so the officiating will be of concern. In fact, as someone commented on one of the big Terp message boards yesterday: the game hasn’t even started and Jim Gist just got whistled for his second foul.

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