Last year, Maryland's starting quarterback was Joel Statham. He never found a groove at all, but his bad season started bad when, after a glorified scrimmage against Temple, he drowned in a sea of turnovers in a meaningful game against West Virginia. The crucial mistakes in that game seemed to set a tone that Statham couldn't change as 2004 went on.
So in the last three years, Maryland has had two good seasons and one bad one. But a common thread runs through those three seasons: September was a month of struggle for the Terps, particularly at quarterback. It's as predictable as death and taxes: the first four weeks of the football year always manage to bloody-up Maryland's team. Like a slow-starting pitcher or a floating tennis ball, you better get Maryland early. If you don't, the slow turtle becomes the consistent, focused beast that grinds you down and wears you out. Navy can't expect Maryland to be the same team that never got going last year; if the Midshipmen are to win, they need to confuse the Terps' 2005 signal-caller, Sam Hollenbach, disguising looks and mixing defensive packages to create another boatload of turnovers. And when you give a Brigade of seaworthy gridiron Midshipmen a boatload of turnovers, you can expect they'll know what to do with them: win a huge ballgame in Baltimore on Saturday.
True, Navy needs to start anew on offense in 2005 with the loss of both Aaron Polanco and Kyle Eckel. However, defense will be Navy's best offense in this game against the slow-starting Turtles of the college football variety. That's good news for the Midshipmen, whose strength matches up well with Mayland's weakness. With crucial turnovers—and some agile hands that can bat down or tip passes at the line of scrimmage, much as in the win over Army last December—Navy can create the sea of turnovers that will bring about an upset. If the Midshipmen can do the deed, it will feel like 2004 all over again, and the Johnson Boys certainly want to recapture that feeling in 2005.