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Terps football - Where we've been

By Rick Nelligan

The road to the ACC Championship game now officially runs through College Park after the Terrapins' convincing victory over the Cavaliers on Saturday. It starts this Saturday in a primetime matchup on ABC against the talented Florida State Seminoles. Then on Thanksgiving weekend, the Terps are pitted against a surprisingly good North Carolina State squad.

I will be previewing those contests the day before those games. But I’ve always thought that in order to know where you’re going, it’s important to know where you have been. So heading into the most important stretch of Maryland’s football season, I believe it is appropriate to take a brief look back at the key games and players thus far.

Key Games

3 – Week Ten: 20-26 loss at Miami

The No. 3 spot was a tossup between the heart-breaker against Miami and the victory against Virginia this past week that enables the Terps to control their destiny to get to the ACC Championship Game. The game against Miami won out. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the Terps. It took a 35-yard touchdown pass (that was so close to being batted down) for the Hurricanes to pull off the come from behind win. But in the end, this game gave the Terps the confidence that even though their opponent is arguably more talented and hyped, if they fight hard they have a chance against anyone. I’d argue that this game not only fueled the Terps in their decisive victory over Virginia, but will help to raise their game down the home stretch.

2 – Week Eight: 24-21 win at Boston College

It’s not that the Terrapins did anything special in Chestnut Hill, where they only won be three, it’s that they had failed to win a road game in two years. It was also the first game after a tough loss on the road to Clemson. Losing two in a row on the road could have been crippling for the Terrapin football team.

1- Week One: 17-14 win vs. Navy

The Terps were able to get a quality victory in the first game of the season against a very tough Navy squad. Right away, Maryland established its identity for the 2010 season. They were going to fight you for every last inch for 60 minutes and take advantage of the opposing teams' mistakes. The Terps held up on four different goal-line stands, not giving up a single point on any of them -- not to mention the last one that won the game late in the fourth quarter when Kenny Tate stoned Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs on fourth and goal from the one-yard line. This game also featured my favorite play of the season, when Adrian Moten dove over the Navy offensive line, hit Dobbs, and forced him to fumble on the goal line.

Key Players

We all know about the rocks of the Maryland football team – Alex Wujciak, Moten, and Torrey Smith. I also already featured Tony Logan earlier in the season. So I’d like to take a minute to feature a few of the unexpected heroes of this Terrapin team.

3b – Defensive tackle Joe Vellano

Vellano has arguably been the top player along the Terrapins' defensive line all season, making big play after big play. He leads the defensive line in tackles with 43, and the entire team in sacks and tackles for loss with 5 and 8.5 respectively. The game is won in the trenches, and he’s a big reason the Terps are winning right now.

3a – The Maryland offensive line

I know you’re about to stop reading because of this, but hear me out. They’ve had their struggles throughout the season, but they have really stepped it up of late in the face of adversity. They’ve lost two starting tackles due to injury and have just plugged people in and kept rolling along. And while they’ve had their struggles in run blocking, they’ve only given up 17 sacks all year long, good for fifth in the ACC. With a freshman quarterback, that is invaluable.

2 – Safety Kenny Tate

Everyone knew that Tate was talented and had all the potential in the world. But no one knew when he’d be able to put it all together after being recruited initially as a wide receiver out of high school. Well, the answer is now. He leads all ACC defensive backs in tackles (75), sacks (3.5), and fumbles forced (4). He also has two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Tate is almost a shoe in for All-ACC honors, and has to be in the mix for All-American honors as well. He has been truly special.

1 – Quarterback Danny O’Brien

You all knew it was coming, Mr. Danny O’Brien. O’Brien has seemingly come out of nowhere to quarterback the Terps to a 5-2 record in the games he’s started. He’s thrown for 16 touchdowns, rushed for one, and thrown only four interceptions. He also owns a 133.5 efficiency rating, good enough for fourth in the ACC. That is better than more heralded players such as Russell Wilson, Jacory Harris, and Kyle Parker. The leadership and poise he has shown as a freshman is uncanny and a big reason for the Terps resurgence this season.

So now we know where we’ve been. Next up is a crucial game against Florida State, arguably one of the biggest games of the Friedgen era. It’s time to move on to where we want to be – the ACC Championship Game.

By Rick Nelligan  | November 15, 2010; 8:48 AM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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