10 Things I Learned 2011 … Maryland

Winning at Maryland? Yes, that’s exciting.

Virginia just beat Maryland. On the road. Convincingly. To qualify for a bowl. To clinch a losing season for Maryland. To keep the program’s momentum rolling. I really have nothing else to say …

… okay, maybe I do.

1. On The Road. I really do not like going to games at College Park. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mind games in the D.C. area, and actually think that ending up in the Military Bowl would be a fantastic fit for the Hoos this year, if that is the way things were to pan out in the end. But games at College Park? Not my favorite.

Over the years, I really have only had a few bad experiences at away games. The worst two were at Virginia Tech games, but those experiences are balanced by quite a few excellent trips as well as a lot of friends I have at those games, so that keeps Blacksburg off my “worst destinations” list. Morgantown thankfully is not a destination in recent years because honestly, if I have had a good experience there, I cannot remember it. So yes, there are some other less-than-favorite destinations …

… but for me, College Park tops the list. Comfortably.

As a result, wins for the Hoos at College Park are a little sweeter – since they add at least some joy to the trip – and losses are a little more bitter.

This week, things obviously are a little more sweet.

In fact, the third quarter of this week’s game was about as much fun as I have had watching the Hoos all year, with UVa stuffing the Maryland offense on the first series of the half, then driving the ball 94 yards for a touchdown (taking more than six minutes off the clock), then forcing a huge turnover, and then marching back into the end zone once more. For a team that has been quitting games in recent weeks the way the Terps have, that was all she wrote.

The postgame statistics really bear out that this was a very balanced effort by the Hoos. On offense, UVa posted 527 yards of total offense, and had a 300-yard quarterback, two 100-yard receivers, and a 100-yard rusher. The Hoos averaged 8.5 yards per passing attempt – going downfield frequently during the game – and 4.9 yards per rush on the way to 220 rushing yards. On defense, the Hoos had six players with between 5 and 7 tackles. All six defensive linemen chipped in with at least one tackle. The defense and special teams combined to force five turnovers, and the defense limited the Maryland offense to less than 26 minutes of time of possession (Virginia, by comparison, had more than 26 minutes of time of possession at the end of the third quarter). The kicking game was solid across the board, and there were no major breakdowns in coverage.

This was one of those games that a rebuilding program like UVa easily could lose, but that an improving program like UVa found a way to win. The fact that the win came at College Park only made the day all the better.

Perry Jones had a wide lane to open the game and scored easily.

2. Starting Off Right. At this point in the season, if you read through the “Things I Liked This Weekend” section of most 10 Things column, you probably have figured out that I like it when the Hoos start the game on offense with a run. So needless to say, I like it even better when the Hoos start the game with a run … and score on that play.

In some ways, this is the kind of play that I seldom break down, simply because everyone already focused plenty on it. Here, however, I cannot help but break down the play because when you go through the play carefully, it really is an 11-man play as it is almost impossible to find fault with anything that any Virginia player did on the play.

The play call is a very basic stretch play, one that UVa ran constantly during the Al Groh years but a play that has become much rarer during the last two years (though Clifton Richardson ‘s skill set may bring it back into vogue). The play probably