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Terps hope to close door on Cobourne

October 02, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Good thing it's not Halloween this week. The University of Maryland football team is becoming unfriendly.

The Terps are rolling up the welcome mat in an effort to keep a certain solicitor off their doorstep.

This week, Ding, Dong. Avon's calling.

Maryland's defense will be called on to double lock the front door - better known as the line of scrimmage - to keep West Virginia's Avon Cobourne from running wild in a renewal of the two teams' border war on Saturday.

"The key is to stop the run," Maryland's All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson said. "The defensive backs have to stop the pass and we have to be geared up to stop the run. Cobourne is probably the best back we have faced all year. We have to put a pad on him and lower the boom."

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Not many people have been able to do that this season, least of all East Carolina. Cobourne vaulted into the West Virginia and Big East record books by rushing for 260 yards and two touchdowns in WVU's 37-17 win over the Pirates last week. In the process, Cobourne became the nation's top rusher (159.5 yards per game).

The Mountaineers are currently the top rushing team and second best total offensive team in the country.

"Their running game is imposing," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said Tuesday during his weekly press gathering. "They have the leading rushing game in the country with two running backs (averaging at least 75) yards rushing. That's pretty imposing, even if they are running against air."

Before the season, the game looked to be a possible matchup between two of the top running backs on the east coast. Cobourne was to be pitted against Maryland's Bruce Perry, the Atlantic Coast Conference's Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American.

The matchup probably won't materialize, however, because Perry has yet to play a down this season due to injury and will probably miss Saturday's game.

That puts even more emphasis on the Maryland defense's ability to slow down WVU's ground game (345.5 yards per game).

Cobourne doesn't do it all alone. Quincy Wilson rushed for 198 yards and quarterback Rasheed Marshall ran for another 63 against East Carolina as the Mountaineers rolled up 536 of their 569 yards of offense on the ground.

"This week, we have to stop the run," Friedgen said. "Our defense has been good, but (the Mountaineers) use four receivers and will spread us out. We won't be able to have too much help deep. That will bring up an extra guy on the line against the run, but Cobourne comes and he turns runs of 5-6 into gains of 12-14. They have a good offensive line which provides the holes and a good scheme. It all adds to it."

WVU uses a no-huddle offense, which helps to prevent defensive substitutions, and the four wide receiver sets, which brings more defensive players along the line of scrimmage and fewer in the defensive backfield.

Maryland is coming off a 37-8 win over Division I-AA Wofford where it reinvented its defense to control an the Terriers' option attack. The Terps, learning to play assignment defense in a week, shut down Wofford's attack on 48 carries for 156 yards rushing (3.25 yards per carry).

Henderson made the biggest impact with 15 tackles, including one for a loss that set a school record. The sack was the linebacker's 46th tackle for a loss, eclipsing the record held by Aaron Thompson.

"We don't really have any assignments but we have to get to the ball," Henderson said. "We just have to focus on stopping the run and making them one-dimensional. If we can do that, we have a better chance of winning."

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