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Terps' 'D' feasts without turnovers

October 03, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It sounds like the old "If a tree falls in the woods and no one's there" question.

Only it's rephrased for football.

If Maryland's defense comes off the field without recording a turnover, is it making noise?

If you are looking for the spectacular, then the answer is No. If you are looking for functional play, the answer is a resounding Yes.

"That's how it's always been," cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "The defense never gets enough credit. That's the nature of defense. It's jut not pretty."

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But it's been steady. The defense has been the one constant that Maryland has been able to count on during its 3-2 start. In the last three games, the Terps have held the three opponents to 189.3 yards per game and 23 total points.

It has played well in all five games, with the exceptions of one drive in the opener against Northern Illinois and after tiring against Florida State, both losses.

The defense has gone unnoticed though, mostly because it only has collected just four turnovers, all interceptions - and two have been returned for touchdowns.

"Fumbles are good fortune and timing," said Foxworth, who returned an interception for a 44-yard touchdown last Saturday against Eastern Michigan. "We have not had the opportunity to make turnovers. We just have to play solid defense."

Part of Maryland's defensive success came from opponents' unfamiliarity to the scheme under coach Ralph Friedgen. The surprise worked in the Terps' favor. But now, the surprise is gone.

"Last year turnovers allowed us to blow out a couple of teams and it kept us in some games," Foxworth said. "Teams seem to be playing more conservative. They try to run the ball and throw more to the tight end. Last week, I only had five or six balls thrown to my side."

Without the turnovers, the Terps have had to take a different approach to defense.

"The big goal is to get a turnover and get off the field," linebacker Leroy Ambush said. "But if we can hold a team to a three-and-out (three plays without a first down), it is just as good. If we keep doing things the way we have been doing them, the (turnovers) will pop out."

With loose balls being hard to come by, Maryland has drilled on the basics to be successful.

"We just have to play every play," Ambush said. "A drive is just another opportunity to strap it up for another snap. The coaches tell us, 'You're not going to be able to make every play.' So we don't try to make the plays that we can't make."

Without making noise, Maryland's has been stingy.

"(The lack of turnovers) is frustrating more than anything," Foxworth said. "We have had to learn patience and to let the game come to you. If you don't and you start playing out of technique, that's when you get into trouble. We just have to stay in there and be patient."

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