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Men at work - Terps come from a land down under

October 20, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland has a lot of work to do on defense.

For Wesley Jefferson, that's OK, because defense is more than his Saturday hobby. It's his livelihood.

That's what Jefferson kept reminding himself last Saturday while the Terrapins overcame a 20-0 halftime deficit to defeat Virginia.

"Yeah, we were down, but this is our job," said the Maryland linebacker. "It's what we are doing for a living. You can't go out there and lay down and roll over. You have to go out there and do your job."

It ended up being a job well done as Maryland's defense prevented two touchdowns, forcing the Cavaliers to settle for field goals, and got an Erin Henderson interception return for a touchdown for the decisive score in a much-needed 28-26 victory over Virginia.

It might have been a case of Maryland's defense getting mad at the situation, maybe even embarrassed by falling behind so easily in the first half. It might have been a flashback to how it felt when West Virginia scored 28 points in the first quarter on Sept. 14 and forced Maryland's defense to fight for respectability in what ended up as a 45-24 loss.

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Whatever it was, it got the attention of Maryland's defense.

"Everyone was fired up and ready to go. They were ready to do more," Jefferson said. "You still have to go out there and play hard. If you're not playing hard, you're still taking the chance to be seriously hurt. No one quit. We were down 20, but that's our job. It's what we had to do."

Maryland's defense pitched a second-half shutout until Virginia scored with just less than three minutes remaining to draw within 28-26. The Terps prevented UVa from scoring the tying two-point conversion, which ultimately was the difference in the game.

Still, it wasn't perfect. Just good enough to win.

"Defensively, we need to do a better job in the running game and stopping the long passes," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "Some of it is that we have a few inexperienced guys playing. It's about how to take on a block or how to free the right arm. There is a lack of experience mistake; I don't see it as an effort mistake. What's going to happen is that the more they play and the more experience they have, the better they will be. I'd like for that to happen tomorrow, but I know that's not going to happen."

Still, even with the lack of experience, the Terps' defense needed to draw on something to be able to dig out of the hole it was in. Some of it was remembering the West Virginia loss.

But the rest came from another source. What the defense was lacking in experience, it made up for with attitude.

"Our adjustments are more like, 'What do we need to do? Who is going to step up? How are we going to get this done?'" Jefferson said. "This win will help us in the long run. It will help us to get the next win which will help us get the next win."

That's one thing Friedgen is counting on.

"We just have to continue to improve," Friedgen said. "It's not just one area but all areas - in coaching and playing. As long as we are putting forth the effort, I think that is going to happen. We have to hang together as a team and put the team before ourselves. Hopefully the more we win, the better that will be."

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