Chicago Colleges: Maryland Terrapins

Big Ten Wednesday mailbag

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
Nebraska is soliciting applications from students who want to work as a DJ at football practice. Interesting concept. I wonder if this is a gimmick or a sign of things to come. Perhaps students may soon run the scoreboard or move the chains at practice. Just as long as they're not calling plays, we're all safe. On second thought ...

Here's the mailbag for Wednesday. Send more questions here for later this week.

Mitch Sherman: Iowa fans value stability. They've got it in Kirk Ferentz, entering his 16th season. He trails only Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer for longevity among major-conference coaches. Of course, with stability can come complacency. And the Hawkeyes got a dose of it two years ago. Last fall, though, produced positive vibes in Iowa City, with the promise of an even better season to follow.

Ferentz earned just less than $4 million last year, a figure that places him among the nation's elite. Iowa is 27-24 since its 2009 Orange Bowl season, so yes, fans ought to demand more bang for the buck. Thing is, from my view just to the west, I didn't sense more than moderate unrest even after the 2012 debacle.

Iowa fans understand the economics in play here. They like Ferentz as the face of the program. And expectations in Iowa City may never match those in place at Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska. All told, the Hawkeyes know what they have in their coach and generally like it. In this case, stability pays.


Mitch Sherman: The answer is multi-faceted. First, consider that Wisconsin is just one year removed from three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. With a tip of the cap to Michigan State, the Badgers maximize talent more efficiently than any Big Ten team.

So look at this group, with a suspect front seven on defense, the underwhelming Joel Stave at quarterback and a questionable group of receivers. You may see a mediocre club. Others see a team set up to make a run at the College Football Playoff. That's the Wisconsin way.

There's also Melvin Gordon, who led the nation in per-carry rushing average in each of the past two seasons. He's back to run behind a stout offensive line. Finally, check out the schedule. Yeah, LSU awaits in the opener, but there's no better time to get the young Tigers. The Badgers face Nebraska at Camp Randall and play Rutgers and Maryland from the East Division.


Mitch Sherman: Only two coaches qualify as realistic possibilities, Brady Hoke and Bo Pelini. Either could land himself in trouble with a poor season, though isn't that always the case at Michigan and Nebraska?

In his fourth season, Hoke needs to rebound from a difficult six-game finish to last season. It began with a 24-3 drubbing at Michigan State and ended with a 31-14 loss to Kansas State. In between, the Wolverines lost at home to Nebraska and Iowa. Though all the pieces don't appear in place, it's time for Michigan to reverse the trajectory on display the past three years.

For Pelini, the story is different. His record, 58-24 in six years, stands up nationally. But the lack of a conference championship -- it's been since 1999 -- is a burden that has long troubled Nebraska fans. The Hail Mary escape against Northwestern last year may have saved the Huskers and their coach from a disastrous finishing stretch. Good fortune won't always be on their side.

Rapid Reaction: Maryland 77, N'western 57

November, 27, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Here’s a quick look at the Maryland Terrapins' 77-57 win over the Northwestern Wildcats in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Tuesday.

MarylandNorthwesternOverview: Northwestern and Maryland played equally bad in the first half, but the second half was a completely different game. The Terrapins were better than Northwestern in every way in the final 20 minutes, as Maryland outscored Northwestern 49-31. Maryland’s Dez Wells, Nick Faust and Alex Len all finished in double figures while Northwestern’s star Drew Crawford had a rough night, scoring 10 points and shooting for 4 for 14. Maryland’s size also played a difference as it outrebounded Northwestern 42-15.

Turning point: After an ugly first half by both teams (they combined 18-of-53 shooting), Maryland came out a different team in the opening minutes of the second half. The Terrapins outscored Northwestern 19-10 over the first six minutes of the second half and ran away with the game. Wells and Len combined for 11 points during the run.

Why Maryland won: The Terrapins’ size was just too much for Northwestern. Len, who is 7-foot-1, led the way with a game-high 13 rebounds, but it was a team effort for Maryland on the boards. Six other players had three or more rebounds.

Why Northwestern lost: The Wildcats’ inside play was a huge factor in their loss, but their offense relied way too much on the 3-pointer as well. Northwestern shot 6 of 25 from 3-point range. Maryland hit five 3-pointers in 13 attempts.

Star(s) of the game: Len and Wells each played a big part in dismantling Northwestern in the second half. Wells finished with a game-high 23 points. Len had 13 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks.

What it means for Maryland: The Terrapins continue to build a strong start to their season. Their lone loss remains to Kentucky by three points in their season opener. Otherwise, Maryland has won its last five games pretty convincingly. Its smallest margin of victory has been nine points.

What it means for Northwestern: The question that will surround Northwestern all season is whether it is a NCAA tournament team. Tuesday was not a good sign. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 21 points on their home floor.

What’s next: Maryland faces George Mason in the BB&T Classic on Dec. 2. Northwestern will host local team Illinois-Chicago on Saturday. The Wildcats have a tough upcoming schedule with Baylor and Butler following UIC.

3-point shot: Terps-'Cats a sleeper matchup

November, 27, 2012
1. One of the sleeper games that won’t get much publicity during the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is Maryland at Northwestern. The Terps have only one loss (to Kentucky in Brooklyn in the opener) while Northwestern is undefeated after winning the tournament in South Padre Island with an overtime win against Illinois State. What does Maryland have to do? “Guard their Princeton offense, get to the shooters and take care of the ball while executing in the halfcourt,’’ said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. As for the Wildcats, who will likely once again be on the bubble in March for the ever-elusive bid, “We must not get outrebounded by more than 10, we must make shots, and [Drew] Crawford has to play well,’’ said Northwestern coach Bill Carmody.

2. The Battle 4 Atlantis was clearly the best tournament this November. But it’s hard to project these fields. The Gazelle Group, which runs the Legends tournament, had no idea when they locked in Indiana that the Hoosiers would be No. 1. The Old Spice Classic looked much better with Vanderbilt and West Virginia and Gonzaga, but the former two are going through rebuilding seasons. Maui had only one ranked team -- North Carolina -- a rarity for that event. These events will go through different stages. In 2014, Orlando’s Old Spice Classic will have marquee teams Kansas, Michigan State and Marquette, which may make that event the top in ’14.

3. Pitt has suspended Trey Zeigler indefinitely for a DUI Sunday. That’s a shame. Zeigler said last week in New York, while recovering from a hamstring injury, that he was hoping to play the way he projected and be much more aggressive offensively. But Zeigler should have been on his best behavior even more since he received a waiver to play this season when he pleaded that he was due the hardship because his father, Ernie, was fired at Central Michigan. Zeigler got a break to get immediate eligibility without sitting out a year. And then he gets a DUI and is suspended? Zeigler will need to apologize to more than his teammates, staff and family. He should also make sure he tells the compliance department and administration that pushed his waiver that he is truly sorry for his transgression.

Notre Dame mailbag

December, 5, 2011
It's time to take a look at what's on your minds with the regular season over and a trip to the Champs Sports Bowl remaining.

Roald "Roe" Gonzalez from Austin, Texas, writes: Our 105,000 DKR memorial Stadium is awaiting for Notre Dame to Drop by annually for out Turkey Day Shoot out with Notre Dame. Any chance Notre Dame is even considering the invite from De Loss Dodds?

Matt Fortuna: Roe, I don't see that happening in the near future. Notre Dame plays Stanford until 2019, and the Irish's series with USC doesn't seem to be going anywhere. At least for the next eight years (imagine what the college sports landscape could look like in 2019?), I can't see Notre Dame adding Texas on an annual basis.

Ryan from McSherrystown, Pa., writes: Hi Matt,Love your work. Just finished reading your last chat on ESPN and just wanted to see what you think about my optimism for ND next year. This is mostly about the schedule. You point out these games as being the tough ones. USC, OU, STANFORD, MSTATE, MICH, MIA..right? Here is my case. The top 3 QB's in next years NFL draft will come from 3 of those schools. Barkley, Jones, Luck will all be gone and all those schools will be playing with new or young QB's. We are due to beat Mich and Cousins is gone at MSTATE..I don't see MIA as being that tough and they weren't very good this year. Mich is the only one of those teams who brings back their QB and we had them beat at MICH this year. Thoughts...Thanks

Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Ryan. You bring up an interesting point with the quarterbacks, but I still don't see Notre Dame entering 2012 as a better team than most of the ones you mentioned. I think we'll learn a lot about Stanford when it no longer has Andrew Luck, so the Cardinal remain up in the air. Being due to beat Michigan means nothing when the Irish have lost three close ones to the Wolverines the last three years. Michigan will only get better in Brady Hoke's second year and with one more year of Denard Robinson. Michigan State, even without Kirk Cousins, is a program that is on the rise. None of this is to say the Irish can't win any of those games, but they do face an awful lot of opponents who are at least capable of beating them — even more than this year, and this was a more experienced team that lost to South Florida.

Joe from Telsau writes: Re: Crist article - REALLY?A rent a player is OK, Wow!!Please shut up, why do we always have to hear bspn peoples opinion. I hope the ncaa does away with this stupid LOOP HOLE.

Matt Fortuna: Sorry, Joe, I'm having trouble hearing you over all of those capital letters. Seriously, though, I see some instances where the rule is taken advantage of and not used for its intent (see: Jeremiah Masoli). And yes, clearly academics are not the main factor in players taking advantage of this rule. But since when did academics dictate where recruited athletes go to college? Sure, academics are often one of several factors. And yes, some schools adhere to higher academic standards than others while recruiting. But a player who graduates and lives up to his end of the bargain academically should be entirely free to go wherever he wants to after, provided the interest is mutual. What does Dayne Crist stand to benefit from staying one year at Notre Dame as a backup while already having a degree? He graduated early, before his scholarship would have expired, and he should be rewarded for that.

Mitch writes: Ok, Matt. We know all about where FSU's defense is ranked. But doesn't their schedule put them in a position to do just that? Looking at the rushing attempts from the opponents they played, you see teams only having 10-15 rushing attempts all together. Seems to me like they haven't really been worn down since they allowed 100+ yards to Wake.

Matt Fortuna: Great point, Mitch. The best rushing offense Florida State played all season was Maryland's, which ranked 44th in the nation. I'm curious to see what Notre Dame can do with Jonas Gray no longer back there, and if Theo Riddick can make a difference at running back. Considering the Irish averaged just 1.8 yards per carry as a team against Stanford, the nation's No. 5 rush defense, they have some work to do.

Big Ten/ACC Challenge Day 1 preview

November, 29, 2011
Yes, that's right: It's the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Not the other way around.

Before you ACC fans fire up the angry email machine, don't blame me for the naming convention. It's simply a matter of ritual. Every year, the Big Ten and ACC take turns sharing this two-day competition's first billing. Last year it was the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This year it's the Big Ten/ACC.

If yours truly had his druthers, the name would be determined by the winner of the previous year's contest. The ACC would have loved this for the first decade of the competition, when it went 10-0 and earned a truly daunting array of bragging rights over its Midwestern brethren. But the Big Ten has experienced a minor renaissance the past two seasons, winning both in 2009 and 2010 and closing the considerable gap, if only slightly, in the ACC's all-time Challenge lead.

Who takes the title home this season? All signs point to the Big Ten being the much stronger, deeper conference overall, but that hardly guarantees victory. As always, the Big Ten/ACC winner will be the league that gets wins in the most opportunistic ways -- usually with a batch of upsets mixed in.

Let's break down those matchups. And while we're at it, since you don't already have enough to send me angry emails about, I might as well throw in a few predictions, too. I eagerly await your "How could you pick Team X over Team Y YOU IDIOT?!?!" emails Wednesday morning. Should be fun. Not as much fun as the Big Ten/ACC Challenge itself, of course. But fun all the same.

Let's begin with Tuesday's games. For my predictions and analysis of each of the Wednesday games, click here.

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Michigan at Virginia, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Prediction: Virginia wins 65-63
Why: Don't get me wrong, that predicted score line is most definitely an upset. In fact, it would be the upset of the Challenge. But there are a few things to take into account here. One: Virginia's brutally slow pace tends to make its opponents play on its terms, and the Cavaliers could force the Wolverines into a grinding half-court game. Two: Michigan is coming off a rather long and arduous trip to the Maui Invitational, which not only involved flights to and from Maui but three tough games in three straight days. Three: It's always tougher to win on the road. Four: As in the NCAA tournament, there are always upsets in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. If Virginia is as improved as many preseason prognosticators have asserted, and if it can keep the air out of the ball, pressure Michigan guard Trey Burke at the point of attack, and prevent Tim Hardaway Jr. from finding a scoring groove, anything can happen. Which is not the most ringing endorsement, I know. But I had to pick an upset somewhere.

Northwestern at Georgia Tech, 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Prediction: Northwestern wins 80-70
Why: Much like last season, opportunities to scout and gauge the ability of the Northwestern Wildcats prior to the Big Ten/ACC Challenge have been minimal. Northwestern has looked good, but we're not really sure how good. Wins over LSU, Tulsa and Seton Hall in the Charleston Classic are nice, but they're hardly going to convince you of this team's ability to, say, make its first NCAA tournament appearance in school history. Georgia Tech may provide a slightly stiffer test, and not only because the game is on the road. Under first-year Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech has been brutally ugly on the offensive end but solid defensively, ranking No. 25 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency thanks in large part to strong perimeter defending and rebounding. Still, Northwestern, with the ever-efficient John Shurna leading the way, should be able to overcome.

Illinois at Maryland, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Prediction: Illinois wins 65-56
Why: At this point in the season, Maryland is just holding on for dear life. That's what happens when you lose a center like Jordan Williams to the NBA and return in the fall to find your point guard (Pe'Shon Howard) and your would-be center (Alex Len) missing thanks to injury and suspension, respectively. Howard's absence has forced guard Nick Faust to take over point responsibilities, a role he told the Washington Post he hasn't played since he was 10 or 11, and Maryland's early results -- with two blowout losses to Alabama and Iona -- have made the difficult transition glaringly noticeable. Meanwhile, Illinois will get its first reasonably difficult game of the season. All six of the Illini's wins to date have been, as colleague Dick Vitale might say, Cupcake City. But the Illini do have talent here, in the form of veteran guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson and vastly improved center Meyers Leonard, who will come into Tuesday night's game averaging 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game.

Miami at Purdue, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Prediction: Purdue wins 72-66
Why: Purdue has been almost entirely perimeter-oriented this season. Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith are this rebuilt team's best and most important offensive players. Even Hummel, who has the size to go down low, has spent most of his effective comeback season playing around the edges of the defense. When the Boilermakers have to face a live frontcourt -- or at least a team that works inside-out rather than outside-in -- they could really struggle. Miami is not that team. The Hurricanes were devastated by injuries to big men Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble in the offseason, and Jim Larranaga's team has had to get by on little more than the backcourt performance of guards Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott. At home, with the insane folks in the Paint Crew on their side, Purdue should be the favorite

Clemson at Iowa, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Prediction: Clemson wins 68-60
Why: If you look only at records -- which would be weird and a not-very-good way to analyze college basketball, but hey, to each his own! -- you might think Iowa and Clemson are on similar ground heading into this one. You would be wrong. Iowa's two losses -- a blowout to a good Creighton team on a neutral court and a 77-61 (!) home loss to none other than the Campbell Fighting Camels -- look very bad indeed. Clemson's two losses, on the other hand, came to reasonably solid mid-majors (Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston) and were the product of one-possession deficits. In the meantime, Clemson ended last week ranked No. 49 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings thanks in large part to a No. 18-ranked defense. Iowa ended last week ranked No. 109. Iowa's home court can be loud at its best and depressingly quiet at its worst, so as long as Clemson can overcome the Hawks' comfort with the fast-break style in Carver Hawkeye-Arena, Brad Brownell's team should be able to get the win.

Duke at Ohio State, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Prediction: Ohio State wins 79-74
Why: On the ESPNU College Basketball podcast on Monday (sorry: shameless plug), our own Doug Gottlieb made a rather trenchant observation regarding Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger's matchup with the Duke frontcourt Tuesday night. He pointed out that Sullinger is best-defended by an athletic, strong big who can play behind him, forcing him to work for position on the offensive end, and who is tall enough to challenge Sullinger's moves around the rim. Mason Plumlee qualifies for this role. Likewise, Duke's offense presents some issues for Sullinger defensively, because the big fella -- for all his incredible strengths on the floor -- struggled at times last season to hedge ball screens and recover in time to seal around the rim. In case you haven't noticed, Duke runs a lot of ball screens. In other words, this might not be Sully's best game. Despite all that, the reason Ohio State wins is perimeter defense. Aaron Craft is as good an on-ball perimeter defender as there is in the country, and Thad Matta's team is loaded with players who can challenge shots and pressure the ball without committing fouls. Duke hasn't played a perimeter defense this capable yet; so many of the things that got them open looks in Maui will be challenged well by Craft & Co. In the meantime, Ohio State's offense -- which is still dynamic but with the added benefit of insane depth -- should put up enough points to hold Duke off in the end.

Irish learning to balance offensive pace

November, 17, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The tempo Notre Dame's offense played at in Saturday's win against Maryland is closer to what Charley Molnar would like to see every week. But it is not something the Irish can rush into.

"Here's the biggest thing, it's the efficiency of it," the offensive coordinator said, "because if you go three-and-out, and you try to play up-tempo for that whole series, you might only have burned a minute off the clock, and now you're punting and the defense has barely gotten on the sideline. The coaches are just starting to drill down their adjustments. And all of a sudden the defense is getting their helmets back on ready to go. So using tempo can be a double-edged sword."

Notre Dame ran 84 plays Saturday, its most in two years under head coach Brian Kelly and nearly 17 more plays than its average of 67.2 in its nine previous games this season.

Molnar said the Irish begin every practice with a tempo period, and they will use different elements of it every game. But they had never kept up the pace for an entire game the way they did against the Terrapins.

Irish players said they could sense Maryland's defensive players not being able to keep up at times, and even Notre Dame running back Jonas Gray admitted to being winded himself at certain points Saturday.

Sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees said a big part of being able to play at such a fast pace starts with communication from the signal caller, who has to make sure that the offensive line is ready to go and that the wide receivers are set and lined up every play.

Having such a surprising powerful rushing attack 10 games into the season has certainly added another dimension.

"I think it's something that started when I first got here," Rees said. "One of the things Coach Kelly stresses is playing at a tempo where he sees fit, and sometimes it's slowing the game down and making sure we're checking at the line and doing a lot of that, and sometimes we wanna push the tempo and keep defenses off-balance and have a couple reads here and there, depending on the game-plan.

"Obviously it worked out pretty well in the past couple weeks, and it's something that the offense likes doing. It's fun going out there and kind of going and playing, so depending on the situation, what we want to do depends on how we're gonna keep the tempo."

Weekend rewind: Notre Dame

November, 14, 2011
It's time to take a look back at the weekend that was in Landover, Md., where the Irish notched their third consecutive victory.

The Good: Notre Dame played its most complete offensive game of the year Saturday, beating Maryland 45-21. The Irish notched more than 500 yards of total offense for the fifth time in 10 games this season, jumping out to a 17-0 lead early and never looking back. The victory — along with several other dominoes falling into place — has the Irish ranked for the first time since the season began.

[+] EnlargeLo Wood
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireLo Wood's 57-yard interception-return touchdown was the turning point against Maryland.
The Bad: Time to nitpick, and in this case the offensive line (and Tommy Rees) are the unlucky recipients of an extra big microscope in a week the Irish left little to complain about offensively. Still, Notre Dame surrendered three sacks Saturday after not allowing a single one in its last five games. The Irish had allowed just five sacks on the season prior to Saturday.

The Ugly: Maryland's uniforms? Or the Terrapins' play? Tough call here, though watching quarterback Danny O'Brien's season come to an early end because of a broken bone in his upper left arm added injury to insult.

Turning point: Inserted for Robert Blanton (stinger), cornerback Lo Wood came up with a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, the Irish's second third-quarter score, to make it 38-7. It probably would not have been much of a competitive game anyway, but this one sealed the deal with plenty of time remaining.

Call of the day: Jonas Gray punched it in from 1 yard out on fourth-and-goal in the final minute of the first half, making it 24-7 Irish at the half. Sure, it's not that difficult to gain a yard (or have faith in your team to), but Maryland had just scored on the previous possession to cut the lead to 10, and a Terrapins stop there could have changed the momentum of the game.

Next up: Notre Dame's next challenge after beating a two-win Maryland team will be beating a three-win Boston College team. The Eagles are coming off a 14-10 win over North Carolina State, their second victory in three games. Keep an eye on linebacker Luke Kuechly, who could finish this season as the leading tackler in the FBS for the second consecutive season. Saturday will also be Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium.

Kelly keeping consistent measure of progress

November, 13, 2011
Brian Kelly's fourth different head-coaching job has been a challenge, as each new job has been. But the stepping stones, roadblocks, triumphs and losses in Year 2 at Notre Dame are nothing Kelly has not encountered in 19 seasons of head coaching prior to taking over the Irish.

"I think I've probably worn this out, but we're in the same process that I've been in in every job that I've had," Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. "We're doing the same things. I'm seeing the same kinds of results. They don't always equal wins, but we're clearly moving in the right direction with our football players and our football program. And sometimes it's disappointing and painful, but I would tell you that this is a very similar feeling that I've had before."

The Irish's 45-21 victory Saturday over Maryland notched them a spot in the national polls -- 24th in the AP, 25th in USA Today -- for the first time since the preseason, a sign of progress Kelly simply measured as meaning "we've played better football since that 0-2 start."

Kelly insisted, however, that winning has by no means become a habit yet for his 7-3 squad.

Separate win streaks of four and three games this season are not enough.

"Well just by the way we have shown over the past year-and-a-half, we can put together four wins in a row, and so we don't have the right to say that we have put it together yet," Kelly said. "When we put together eight, nine, 10 in a row, then we can clearly say we have moved from that constant-reminder phase to habit phase. And we haven't proven that that's the case yet."

Notes: Kelly probably won't know the status of Theo Riddick (hamstring), who missed Saturday's game, until he goes full-speed in the middle of the week, likely on Wednesday. Kelly said doctors met with Riddick on Sunday and liked his range of motion, adding that the receiver was pain-free. ... Manti Te'o (ankle) reported Sunday "as well as he has in the last three weeks," according to Kelly, who added that the junior should be back on track to getting on the field for every down. Te'o was limited to first- and second-down plays Saturday. ... Steve Filer (knee) will put off surgery to enjoy Senior Day festivities with his teammates this Saturday against Boston College.

What we learned about Notre Dame: Week 11

November, 13, 2011
1. Tempo too much for Terps: Notre Dame ran 84 plays Saturday, its most in the Brian Kelly era. By comparison, the Irish entered the game averaging 67.2 plays per game. They got out to an early 17-0 lead, and the confusion and exhaustion of Maryland's defensive players were evident both through their play and through comments afterward.

2. Toma making most of time: After relaying the news last week that Theo Riddick (hamstring) would be out for Saturday's game, Brian Kelly said he didn't look at Robby Toma as a backup. A career-high seven catches for 73 yards proved Kelly right, and it proved the tiny junior can make a difference when given the chance. He did the same last year in place of an injured Riddick, making 14 catches for 187 yards. It will be tough to keep him off the field once Riddick returns.

3. If Notre Dame Stadium were to get a Jumbotron …: Saturday provided a taste of what a Jumbotron might look like if Notre Dame ever got one. The Irish had a long pregame show on the big screen at FedEx Field, and interspersed highlights of all of their athletic teams throughout the night in what was technically a Notre Dame home game.

4. Third-quarter dominance continues: I guess we actually didn't learn this Saturday, as the Irish have been dominant in the third quarter all season long. But the lesson was certainly reinforced against Maryland. Cierre Wood had a 3-yard touchdown run, and Lo Wood picked off a Danny O'Brien pass just more than a minute later, returning it 57 yards for a touchdown. Notre Dame outscored the Terrapins 14-0 in the third period. The Irish now hold a 77-13 edge in the third quarter this season.

Notre Dame helmet stickers: Week 11

November, 13, 2011
LANDOVER, Md. -- A dominant 45-21 win over Maryland lands the following Notre Dame players extra accessories for their already flashy helmets:

Jonas Gray: What more can you say about the senior, who entered this season without a touchdown? He now has 11 in his past seven games, scoring in all seven. He had his first career 100-yard rushing game, going for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.

Cierre Wood: The junior was every bit as good as Gray, adding a 3-yard touchdown himself. Wood finished with 99 yards on just 18 carries, and the duo was relentless against the Maryland front-seven all night long. Wood also had a key block that sprung open Tyler Eifert on the tight end's 34-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

Michael Floyd: The senior made a nice 19-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter to make it 17-0 Irish early. Floyd finished with nine catches for 90 yards and proved trouble for Maryland's defense all night long.

Robby Toma: The little guy finally got his chance and took advantage of it. Replacing the injured Theo Riddick, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Toma finished with a career-high seven catches for 73 yards.

Tyler Eifert: The junior matched a career-high with eight catches and finished with 83 receiving yards. His 34-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter made it 45-14 late.

Tommy Rees: The sophomore did a terrific job running the offense, completing 30 of 38 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns. He hit seven different receivers and, during one stretch, completed 17 of 18 passes.

Lo Wood: Not a bad way to get your first pick. The sophomore intercepted Danny O'Brien and raced it back the other way for a 57-yard touchdown to make it 38-7 with 7:18 left in the third quarter. Notre Dame now has pick-sixes in consecutive Shamrock Series games, as Darrin Walls had a 42-yard interception return for a score against Army last season at Yankee Stadium.

Ben Turk: The junior was not needed much, but he delivered when called upon. Turk landed two punts inside the Maryland 10, and the only one he didn't went for a career-long 58 yards.

Irish pick up tempo in rout of Maryland

November, 13, 2011

LANDOVER, Md. — Robby Toma was fielding postgame questions from reporters Saturday night when Tony Alford stuck his head in.

"What did you do?" the receivers coach asked. "What did you do?"

"I don't know," Toma replied with a smile. "This is new to me."

The career-best seven catches for 73 yards was new. The starting role in place of the injured Theo Riddick (hamstring) was a change. And the ability to capably fulfill Notre Dame's next-man-in philosophy in the Irish's 45-21 rout of a hapless Maryland team made the not-so-easy look not only simple, but rewarding.

Notre Dame beat a two-win Terrapins team, as expected. But they did it by improving their play in nearly all facets of the game, most notably on offense.

In notching their fifth 500-plus-yard offensive performance this season, the Irish ran 84 plays, the most in the Brian Kelly era. They showed a steady balance, with 46 runs and 38 passes. And they ran the offense at a tempo that embodied the pace Kelly has wanted to push at, one his quarterback ran efficiently throughout the evening.

"We wanted to kind of go with a hurry up, no-huddle — we're always no-huddle, more of a hurry-up, push the tempo a little bit," Tommy Rees said. "I think it worked out. I think we caught them and they weren't lined up. And you can tell throughout the game that — hats off to Maryland — but throughout the game the guys were getting tired, and I think that has a lot to do with how we pushed our tempo."

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Matt Cashore/US PresswireTommy Rees and the Notre Dame offense turned in an efficient performance against Maryland.
Rees finished 30 of 38 for 296 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. During one stretch that ended in the third quarter, the sophomore completed 17 of 18 passes.

The run game, which has looked dominant at times, was never as sharp as it was before a Notre Dame-heavy crowd at FedEx Field.

Jonas Gray finished with a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns. Cierre Wood finished with 99 yards and a score.

But the numbers cannot convey the helplessness of the Maryland defense, evident on two separate plays involving the two running backs.

Facing a third-and-10 from his own 8 on Notre Dame's third drive, Wood rushed for 13 yards. Facing a third-and-17 from his own 20 on the Irish's first drive of the second half, Gray bursted up the middle for 19 yards.

Notre Dame ended up scoring on both drives, the latter kicking off a 14-point third quarter that extended the Irish lead to 38-7 and their third-quarter margin this season to 77-13.

"I think our guys settle into the game, they're tuned in, we can talk to them and they know exactly what we want to do in the third quarter and they go out and do it," Kelly said. "Again, our guys understand how important it is to get some adjustments made at halftime. There's good communication. Our guys go out and execute."

There were other signs of improvement across the board aside from Toma, the run game and Rees. Namely, reserve cornerback Lo Wood stepping in for Robert Blanton (stinger), taking a third-quarter interception back 57 yards for a touchdown and making it 38-7.

There was Mike Golic Jr. filling in nicely for Braxston Cave at center, and Ethan Johnson bringing his veteran presence to the defensive line in his first game since Oct. 1.

And, of course, there was that tempo, which showed that opponent and circumstance were irrelevant in the Irish's attempt to make something of this week and next, when three-win Boston College comes to town.

"It was a big emphasis this week, to play at a fast tempo, and we did that well," Gray said. "A few guys were getting gassed — we're not used to doing it, even myself. But that's a dimension of this offense we're trying to continue to keep doing. And when we do that we're a pretty good offense and hard to stop."

And if the offense was getting gassed, does that make for an exhausted defense?

"Oh yeah, yeah," Gray said. "Just a lot of exhaustion. They can't line up as fast as they want to, just small things like that. And Coach Kelly's done a great job of dialing plays up."

Final: Irish 45, Maryland 21

November, 12, 2011
LANDOVER, Md. — Notre Dame ran all over Maryland in a 45-21 victory Saturday night at FedEx Field.

Jonas Gray rushed for 136 yards, Cierre Wood added 99 and Tommy Rees completed 30 of 37 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns, hitting seven different receivers and completing 17 of 18 passes during one stretch.

Lo Wood starred defensively for Notre Dame, making a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter to extend the lead to 38-7.

The Irish have now won three in a row since their loss to USC, improving to 7-3 on the season, which matches last year's regular-season win total. They beat an ACC opponent for the second week in a row, and they will face a third, Boston College, for Senior Day next Saturday.

Be sure to keep it here for more postgame coverage.

A few more pregame notes

November, 12, 2011
LANDOVER, Md. — Darius Fleming is tonight's game captain for the Irish, joining season captain Harrison Smith. Fleming, normally No. 45, is wearing No. 46 tonight in honor of teammate and fellow Chicago native Steve Filer, who is out for the year with an apparent ACL tear.

Maryland won the toss — flipped by Joe Theismann — and will receive the ball first.

Also worth noting is that senior end Ethan Johnson was lined up with the first-team defensive line in warmups. Johnson is expected to play tonight for the first time after spraining his right ankle on the first snap Oct. 1 at Purdue. He has dressed for the three previous games but did not see any action.

New helmets for Saturday's game

November, 7, 2011
Notre Dame will wear another new helmet this Saturday when it takes on Maryland at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

Equipment manager Ryan Grooms just posted on Twitter a picture of the new helmet, which can be found here.

At first glance, this helmet looks very similar to the one the Irish wore in their Sept. 10 game at Michigan, though the new one is shinier and features a green facemask.

This will be the fourth different helmet Notre Dame has worn this season. The Irish received shiny new gold helmets prior to the USC game. And, of course, they wore their old standard helmets in five of the season's first six games.

For a game billed as the Shamrock Series, these helmets are quite fitting.

Weekend rewind: Notre Dame

November, 7, 2011
Here's a look at the weekend that was for the Irish in their first-ever trip to Winston-Salem, N.C.:

The Good: Notre Dame overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Wake Forest 24-17. The Irish became bowl eligible and won their first-ever game under Brian Kelly after trailing at halftime. Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood combined for 179 yards on the ground and the Irish defense stifled Wake Forest's offense during the final 30 minutes.

[+] EnlargeJonas Gray
Matt Cashore/US PresswireJonas Gray added a touchdown to go with his 92 rushing yards against Wake Forest.
The Bad: Notre Dame turned the ball over twice, most notably when Josh Bush intercepted a Tommy Rees pass off a flea flicker and returned it 54 yards, putting the Demon Deacons in position to tie the game. Ultimately, it went for naught.

The Ugly: Braxston Cave left after the first play of the second quarter with a mid-foot sprain. Manti Te'o missed Wake Forest's final drive of the third quarter because of an ankle injury before re-entering the next series. Aaron Lynch left the game twice and has a lateral sprain. And, in the truly ugly department, T.J. Jones took a big hit and had a rough landing on a 6-yard catch in the third quarter, though, amazingly, he re-entered the game and is apparently doing better than his other three injured teammates.

Turning point: Wake Forest was knocking on the door, down seven in the third with a second-and-goal following a huge interception return. Then Harrison Smith jarred the ball loose from Brandon Pendergrass and Gary Gray pounced on it, and the Irish came up with a huge turnover, stopping the Demon Deacons on what would be their best chance at tying the game in the second half.

Call of the day: Going into nickel packages for a majority of the second half paid huge dividends for the Notre Dame defense, which did not allow a second-half point after giving up 17 in the first half. Jamoris Slaughter played the hybrid role for the Irish, replacing drop linebacker Prince Shembo.

Next up: Notre Dame plays Maryland in what is technically an Irish home game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Terrapins, in their first year under coach Randy Edsall, are an abysmal 2-7 this season, and just 1-5 in ACC play. They also have a way with uniforms.