No. 21 Michigan – Maryland preview

COLLEGE PARK – After coming up short against Rutgers last weekend, the Maryland Terrapins are looking to rebound as they welcome the No. 21 Michigan Wolverines to Maryland Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

A win against the Scarlet Knights would have made Maryland’s path to a second consecutive bowl much easier. Instead, the Terrapins must find a way to beat two of its remaining three opponents, all ranked, that have a combined 6-3 record against the Terps since they joined the conference in 2014.

The last time Maryland knocked off more than one ranked opponent in a season (the Terrapins beat No. 23 Texas in September) was 2007.

Suffice to say history is not on their side.

Meanwhile, Michigan will look to keep their slim Big Ten East title hopes alive. Already 1 1/2 games behind division leading Michigan State, the Wolverines face a difficult schedule of their own.

After today, Michigan faces No. 8 Wisconsin on the road before their annual season finale against No. 13 Ohio State in Ann Arbor in two weeks.

The Wolverines will leave College Park with games at No. 8 Wisconsin and home against No. 13 Ohio State left on the schedule.

Maryland comes into yet another game facing questions at quarterback after starter Max Bortenschlager was knocked out of the game against Rutgers leaving his status for the game uncertain.

If Bortenschlager is unable to go, sophomore Ryan Brand, an Air Force transfer, will likely make his first career start for the Terrapins.

Last week in relief of Bortenschlager, Brand completed 8 of 12 passes for 68 yards and almost brought the Terps back to tie the game.

With Wilton Speight and John O’Korn still nursing injuries of their own, Brandon Peters will make his second consecutive start at quarterback.

The sophomore from Avon, Indiana completed 8 of 13 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in the Wolverines win over Minnesota last weekend.

Michigan will likely rely on Karan Higdon to carry the load against a Maryland defense that has given up an average of 198 rushing yards in three games against ranked opponents.

If the Terrapins have any shot at winning this game, it will likely depend on their ability to force turnovers. Against Michigan State, the Wolverines committed five turnovers without taking the ball away from the Spartans a single time.

Game Notes:

  • Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland is 1-2 against the Wolverines. The Terps beat Michigan, 23-16, in their inaugural Big Ten season, but lost the last two by a combined score of 87-3.
  • Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin served as Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in 2015 before being hired at Maryland.
  • Michigan holds the all-time record in the series, 5-1.

 

 

 

 

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Meet the “Melbourne Marvel,” Maryland punter Wade Lees

Studying for exams in Waterfront Library at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, Wade Lees couldn’t help but wonder how he got there.

He’d dropped out of high school in the 11th grade to pursue a career in the Australian Football League, just like his father Ray, and was considered one of the best all-around prospects to come out of his home state of Victoria in years.

Lees Ballarat

Lees in action for Casey against North Ballarat (2010)

After playing six seasons for the Casey Scorpions in the developmental Victoria Football League, Lees was on the verge of jumping to the AFL. Then fate intervened.

In 2012, Lees ordered a fat-burning supplement that unbeknownst to him contained trace amounts of a substance banned by the AFL.

Customs officers intercepted the package upon its arrival to Australia, and reported it to league officials, who subsequently handed the top prospect an 18-month suspension.

Just like that, Lees’ lifelong dream of becoming an Aussie Rules football player was over.

Typically, when an athlete’s career comes to an end, they find a new line of work, get married and move on.

Wade Lees was never typical anything.

He’d been dating his girlfriend, Caitlin, for some time, but at 24, marriage was on neither of their minds.

Since he didn’t finish high school, his prospects of finding a job were bleak at best.

For a while he supported his mother working construction in Melbourne, where brutal summer temperatures can typically top more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wade Lees had officially hit rock bottom.

He decided to use some of his savings to go “walk-about,” on a four-month journey across Europe and North America.

While in the United States, Lees reconnected with an old friend from home, Cameron Johnston, who just so happened to be the punter at Ohio State.

Johnston connected Lees to former NFL punter, Nathan Chapman, who ran ProKick Australia, an academy in Melbourne designed to help Australians transition to American football.

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Nathan Chapman at the ProKick Australia Academy

Chapman, who spent time in the Packers and Bears organizations in 2004, was a former AFL star with the Brisbane Lions and Hawthorn Hawks.

“Wade was a natural kicker during his 12 months in the program,” Chapman said. “When he first joined, we focused on academics, but football remained a release for him.”

If he was ever going to play college football, Lees had to rectify one glaring problem.

He never finished high school.

Lees attempted to use his experience in the VFL for credit on applications to universities across Australia.

Only Deakin, one of Australia’s most prestigious universities, was willing to accept the former prospect.

Lees was a full-time student again for the time in a decade.

Before leaving for a job with Southern California, Michigan’s special teams coordinator, John Baxter, attempted to recruit Lees to Ann Arbor.

No scholarship offer from head coach Jim Harbaugh ever materialized.

Enter newly installed Maryland head coach, D.J. Durkin, Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in 2015.

For years, the Terrapins had one of the worst special teams units in the country, something Durkin aimed to fix.

He lost former Lou Groza Award winning kicker, and Lees’ fellow countryman, Brad Craddock, to graduation, and punter Nick Pritchard proved to be a distraction after famously fighting a sideline bench following a shanked punt against Michigan State.

“Wade was a perfect fit for D.J.,” said Chapman. “He’s strong-minded, and brought an added toughness to the program Durkin was looking for.”

By January 2016, Lees was on a flight to Dulles, scholarship in hand, to join Durkin in College Park.

“It was really strange when I got here,” said Lees. “I spent the first couple of months on Craddock’s couch because the semester had already begun and housing was full.”

Craddock

Lees (left) and former Maryland FWAA All-American kicker, Brad Craddock (right)

Even though Craddock is four years younger than Lees, the latter noted how the former became his “big brother,” showing him around campus and College Park, helping him acclimate to life in the United States.

“I never would have settled in so easy without him,” Lees said.

At 29, Wade found himself competing against guys born more than a decade before him.

“I was used to it. In the VFL, I was 24 and playing with guys ranging from 18 to 34.”

That sentiment has transcended his academic career as well, intent on a communications degree, with most of his fellow classmates having no clue how old he is, “especially after shaving.”

Lees still misses playing Aussie Rules football, especially the constant action, rather than running onto the field only six or seven times a game to punt and hold kicks.

He also longs for the natural comforts Australia has to offer, including pristine beaches, surfing and sun noting, “there’s just no good beaches around [Maryland].”

Lees’ active lifestyle previously included finishing a triathlon in 2013.

But don’t be fooled, he’s still got a sweet tooth, in particular for the Australian chocolate candy, Cherry Ripe.

“When mum was here for four weeks, I had her bring boxes from home since you can’t get them here.”

Lees’ most guilty pleasure of all however, remains Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.

“I went to all three of her [Katy Perry] concerts with Caitlin when she performed in Melbourne a few years ago. I’m a huge fan. I just wish she and Taylor could put the feud behind them because I love them both.”

In the meantime, Lees has continued his quest to win the Ray Guy Award with his left leg every Saturday since being named to the preseason watch list.

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Lees rugby-style punt in action

His best performance of the season came against Central Florida in September, when he averaged 47.1-yards per punt, including a career best 64-yard punt. For the season, Lees is averaging 39-yards per punt on 42 attempts.

Against Indiana on Saturday, Lees averaged 42.2-yards on five punts, including a 51-yard punt that pinned the Hoosiers on their own 1-yard line late in the game.

“It’s an honor to be nominated, but I’m focused on winning and keeping the award [which has gone to four Australians in a row] in our hands.”

Northwestern-Maryland Preview

COLLEGE PARK –  With both teams coming off their worst loss of the season, Maryland (3-2) and Northwestern (2-3) will face off in their first ever meeting this afternoon at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.

The game marks the midpoint of the season for both teams, each at a critical juncture heading into the second half.

Northwestern currently sits in last place in the Big Ten West, without a conference victory.

Following this afternoon’s matchup, the Wildcats face a three-game stretch against Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska.

Maryland is fifth in the Big Ten East behind perennial powerhouses Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.

Northwestern, along with Indiana and Rutgers, represent the Terrapins best chance to accumulate the six wins necessary to become bowl eligible.

Maryland also has road games at Wisconsin and Michigan State and home games against Michigan and Penn State to close the season.

Complicating matters further, both teams received their bye week early in the season, leaving no time to heal injured players.

If any team could really use a bye right now, it’s Maryland.

Max Bortenschlager, already the third quarterback to start a game for the Terrapins this season, left last week’s game against Ohio State with a concussion, and remains a game time decision.

If Bortenschlager can’t go, Caleb Henderson, a junior transfer from North Carolina, will make his first career start.

Henderson came in following the injury to Bortenschlager, and finished the game 1 for 1 for no yards and no touchdowns.

Maryland will need to rally around whoever starts at quarterback in order to bounce back from a 66-yard performance against the Buckeyes.

The Terrapins offensive line failed to protect Bortenschlager, who was sacked six times a week ago, or create holes for a running game that amassed 262 yards on 47 carries two weeks ago against Minnesota.

Northwestern has quarterback issues of their own, and Coach Pat Fitzgerald has speculated backup quarterback Matt Alviti could see extended playing time if starter Clayton Thorson fails to impress.

Thorson struggled against the Nittany Lions last weekend, and was pulled in favor of Alviti, who led the Wildcats on their only scoring drive of the game.

Northwestern is also likely to rely on standout running back, Justin Jackson, who comes into today’s game averaging 4.2 yards per carry this season, along with four rushing touchdowns.

The Wildcats enter the game as 3-point favorites.

Game Notes

  • The two teams will not meet again until October 17, 2020 at Ryan Field in Evanston.
  • Pat Fitzgerald began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Maryland in 1998.
  • After the game, the Terrapins will have played every team in the Big Ten except for Illinois. The Illini travel to College Park next October.

Prediction

Northwestern 24, Maryland 18

 

Preview: Maryland-Ohio State

COLUMBUS – Coming off a second straight Big Ten opening win, the Maryland Terrapins are on the road again this week as they take on the 10th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Terps (3-1) and Buckeyes (4-1) are both coming off impressive road victories.

Ohio State routed Rutgers, 56-0, while Maryland picked up its first conference road win since 2015, defeating Minnesota, 31-24.

Third-string quarterback, Max Bortenschlager, will make his second straight start for Maryland following season ending injuries to starting quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome and backup Kasim Hill.

Last week, Bortenschlager went 18 for 28 for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, running backs Lorenzo Harrison and Ty Johnson combined for 201 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries.

Their ability to run the ball effectively against Ohio State’s defense would likely take some pressure off Bortenschlager.

In addition, the Terrapins must contain the Buckeyes fourth-ranked offense, led by quarterback J.T. Barrett.

Barrett, the Buckeyes all-time leading passer, threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns against Rutgers, while running for an additional 89 yards.

Ohio State leads the Big Ten in total offense, averaging 564.8 yards per game, through the first six weeks of the season.

Wide receivers, Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon, will look to capitalize on a Maryland secondary that gives up an average 248 yards passing, tied with Illinois for 11th in the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes enter as 30 ½ -point favorites, and while Maryland has never beaten Ohio State, the last time the two teams played in Columbus, the game was tied after three-and-a-half quarters.

The question is, can the Terps compete with the Buckeyes all four quarters on Saturday afternoon?

Game Notes:

  • Maryland’s last win over an AP Top 10 team came in 2007 against 8th ranked Boston College.
  • The Terrapins haven’t beaten multiple ranked opponents the same season since 2008 when they knocked off California, Wake Forest, Clemson and North Carolina.
  • Ohio State is 3-0 all-time against Maryland. The Buckeyes beat the Terrapins, 62-3, in College Park last November.

Prediction:

Ohio State 45, Maryland 13

Just Win Skins: Washington upsets the Raiders on Sunday Night Football, 27-10

LANDOVER, Md. – Behind a strong defense that held the Oakland Raiders to 128 yards of total offense, the Washington Redskins upset the Oakland Raiders, 27-10, at FedEx Field on Sunday night.

That 128 total yards is the lowest managed against a Redskins defense since the Denver Broncos put up the same total in October 1992.

After lighting up the New York Jets for 230 yards and three touchdowns last week, Oakland quarterback Derek Carr managed only 3.8 yards per completion, for 118 yards and a touchdown.

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, completed 25 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns.

Both teams are now 2-1.

On the second play of the game, Carr was intercepted by Redskins cornerback, Montae Nicholson, who jumped in front of a deep pass intended for Amari Cooper.

Cousins then an eight play, 67-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 22-yard touchdown pass to running back Chris Thompson.

Filling in for an injured Rob Kelley, the fourth-year back from Florida State caught six passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for an additional 38 yards on eight carries.

Carr, who hadn’t throw an interception in the Raiders’ first two games, was picked off again in the second quarter, this time by Kendall Fuller on a pass intended for Seth Roberts.

Cousins then drove Washington on an 11-play, 72-yard drive capped off by an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis.

The Raiders offensive line not only struggled to protect Carr, who was sacked four times, but failed to create holes for running back Marshawn Lynch to run through.

The Oakland backfield managed only 32 total yards. Lynch ran for 18 yards on six carries.

Leading 14-0 at halftime, the Redskins began the third quarter with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Josh Doctson.

The Raiders would get on the board following a muffed punt by Jamison Crowder that Oakland recovered on the Redskins 18-yard line and converted two plays later into a 21-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Jared Cook.

Another Redskins fumble two drives later led to an Oakland field goal.

Game Notes:

  • Oakland has not started 3-0 in a season since 1990 when the team was in Los Angeles.
  • Washington has now won consecutive home Sunday Night Football games for the first time in its history.
  • Cousins did not throw an interception or fumble the ball for the first time since Week 16 of last season against Chicago.

Up Next:

WASHINGTON: The Redskins travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs next Monday night before their bye in Week 5.

OAKLAND: The Raiders head to Mile High as they face 2-1 division rival Denver next Sunday before welcoming the Baltimore Ravens to the Black Hole in Week 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#18 USC rebounds against Oklahoma, 3-1

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland – The USC women’s volleyball team defeated Oklahoma Friday afternoon at the Xfinity Center, 3-1, to close out the Maryland Challenge behind a strong performance from senior opposite hitter Brittany Abercrombie.

USC got off to a slow start in game one, thanks in part to an impressive performance from Oklahoma junior opposite hitter Madison Drescher (six kills) in game one.

Her kills weren’t enough to undo her three errors, including an attack that was rejected by USC’s Brittany Abercrombie and Brittany Welsh, helping the Trojans climb back in the game.

Abercrombie and sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier combined for nine kills and two assists as they rallied the Trojans over a Sooners squad that was dispatched by Maryland, 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-23), earlier in the day.

Drescher redeemed herself with a strong game two, finishing clean while tacking on five more kills to her total.

Junior outside hitter, Alyssa Enneking, added six kills of her own as Oklahoma rallied late to take game two, 25-23.

The Sooners came out strong in game three before their coach, Santiago Restrepo, received a red card for arguing over the pace of play with his team leading by one.

His red card tied the game, gave Southern California the ball and momentum to go on a 5-1 run.

From there the Trojans pulled away to win game three, 25-20, behind a strong offense led by Lanier (six kills), senior middle blocker Jordan Dunn (two kills and a block) and sophomore opposite hitter Daley Krage (three kills).

Game four was an opportunity for those in attendance to see just how truly dominate USC’s star opposite hitter, and 2015 All-Pac 12 selection, Brittany Abercrombie, can be.

The senior from Carlsbad, California scored the Trojans first two points as the Sooner defense had no gameplan to repel her punishing attacks.

Abercrombie (four kills), Lanier (seven kills) and junior outside hitter Alyse Ford (three kills) accounted for 60% of the Trojan offense in game four as the Women of Troy saught to end their part in the Maryland Challenge on a high note.

Oklahoma managed to claw their way back into the game late behind Drescher (three kills) and Enneking (four kills).

But it wasn’t enough as Abercrombie stepped up and ended Oklahoma’s short lived comeback, finishing off the Sooners with USC’s final two points of the game.

USC saw three players (Lanier, Abercrombie and Krage) finish with double digit kills, while two others, Reni Meyer-Whalley and Cindy Marina, finished with double digit assists.

After the game, Abercrombie said how glad she was to come away with a win, especially after the let down performance USC had against Maryland.

Ever the team leader, she also commented on her desire to cut down on errors over the remainder of the season as a way to personally help the team perform better going forward.

Game Notes:

  • USC finished non-conference play with an identical 8-3 record last season.
  • The win marked USC’s first on the East Coast since defeating Coastal Carolina in the 2014 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament in Chapel Hill.
  • Oklahoma’s 3-9 start marks the program’s worst since 2008 when the Sooners began the season 3-6.
  • The Maryland Challenge marks the end of a four year rotating series between Maryland, USC and Washington. Wisconsin participated in year one of the tournament before dropping out. Oklahoma replaced the Badgers the last three seasons.
  • Oklahoma lost all three games to USC, Maryland and Washington as well in last year’s Pac 12 Challenge in Los Angeles.
  • The Women of Troy are now 6-0 all time against the Oklahoma Sooners.

 

Up Next:

The Women of Troy open up conference play against crosstown rival UCLA (6-2, 0-0) this Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion. Game can be seen at 8 p.m. PDT on ESPNU.

Oklahoma begins conference play at McCasland Field House in Norman against the Kansas State Wildcats (6-5, 0-0) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CDT.

Trojan Takedown: Unranked Maryland shocks #18 USC 3-0

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland – In a rematch of last year’s game between USC and Maryland women’s volleyball, the score and intensity remained the same. The winner didnt, as Maryland pulled off an early season upset over the 18th ranked Women of Troy, 3-0 on Thursday night at the Xfinity Center.

The game marked the first for each team in the Maryland Challenge, featuring two Pac 12 schools, USC and Washington, and members of the Big 10 (Maryland) and Big 12 (Oklahoma).

Earlier in the day, the Huskies swept the Sooners, 3-0 to kick off the two day tournament in College Park.

Maryland opened strong, taking the first game, 25-22, behind freshman outside hitter, Erika Pritchard, who finished the game with 12 kills and 9 digs.

USC mounted a late comeback, rallying to within two, before the Terrapins pulled away, snapping the Trojans consecutive games streakshut out streak at seven, dating back to a 3-2 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks on September 8th.

Game two began well for the Trojans, who got off to a 7-3 start before everything fell apart.

Slowly the Terrapins crawled back and tied the game at 18 on the back of freshman outside/opposite hitter, Sam Dreschel, who finished the night with six kills.

The Maryland comeback left USC coach Mick Haley visibly angry on the sidelines.

From there, the Trojans failed to put the Terps away and Maryland took game two, 25-23.

Game three didn’t start any better for USC, as they fell behind early 9-4.

USC’s senior opposite hitter, Brittany Abercrombie, had 10 kills and 4 digs on the night, helping to keep game three within striking distance. USC managed to tie the game at 16, before the Terrapins finished off the Women of Troy in front of a raucous home crowd that supported Maryland from start to finish.

After the game, Maryland coach Steve Aird put the game in the rearview mirror saying that while he was impressed by the Terrapins victory, he was already, “onto Oklahoma.”

Game Notes:

  • Maryland football head coach, DJ Durkin, and Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese were in attendance for tonight’s game.
  • Maryland had lost their previous four meetings against USC, including last season’s 3-0 sweep in the Pac 12 Challenge at the Galen Center.
  • The Terps 10-0 start, marks their best opening to a season since the 2005 team won 14 in a row to start the season.
  • USC made its first ever visit to College Park to take on the Terrapins and Sooners.
  • While Maryland and Oklahoma will play three games each over the two day tournament, USC and Washington will only play two as they play each other in conference play on October 1st and 27th.

Up Next:

Maryland plays Oklahoma tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. and Washington at 7 p.m. to close out their non-conference schedule before beginning conference play next week at Ohio State.

The Women of Troy close out their non-conference schedule with Oklahoma tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. before returning to Los Angeles this weekend. They open up Pac 12 play on the road against crosstown rival UCLA Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.