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Terrapins draw the line on 'D'

September 07, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The fortunes of the University of Maryland's defense revolve around the play of linebacker Erin Henderson and defensive back Christian Varner. But the Terrapins' success will probably be defined by the play of their defensive line.

It is literally Maryland's first line of defense and the pressure is on the unit to put pressure on the opposition, something it did well in the Terps' 31-14 season-opening win over Villanova.

"When I looked at the film, I was very impressed with how we played up front," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I thought we were more active than we've been. I thought we made more plays. They played very well. We were playing with very good technique and great effort."

It all translated to the Terps controlling Villanova in the second half.

Maryland's defense struggled in the first half, allowing the smaller Wildcats to move to the edges to control the ball. Villanova trailed only 10-7 at the half, raising the ire of Friedgen.

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"It was the first game and they did what they wanted to do instead of what they were supposed to do," Friedgen said after Saturday's win.

But the second half was much different, largely due to lineman Carlos Feliciano.

"I think he felt like we were unfocused," Feliciano said. "We allowed a couple of big plays. I'm not really sure what happened. I know the coaches had a meeting with the linebackers and the defensive backs. But we knew the defensive line had to get more pressure."

The line's lack of pressure hampered Maryland last season. The Terps' front line only managed 20 sacks in 2006, allowing opposing offenses extra time to make plays.

"It was bad last year," Feliciano said. "There was a big emphasis on the rush this season. If we can't get to the passer, the defensive backs are stuck back there forced to cover receivers longer."

Against Villanova, the line showed marked improvement by collecting three of Maryland's four sacks for the game. It was a product of allowing one thing to lead to another.

"Throughout the game, we said we had to keep on it," Feliciano said. "In the second half, we decided we had to stop their run. We got their numbers to decline, and it was in our hands. If we reduced the run, stopping the pass would take care of itself."

Maryland held Villanova to 28 yards of offense in the second half, including zero on six rushing attempts. The Wildcats managed just 14 plays in the second half.

" I thought Carlos Feliciano played maybe the best game he's played since he's been here," Friedgen said. "He gave us a tremendous effort. He played with great leverage.

"Mack Frost had a tremendous effort as well. Dre Moore had a great play for us. Not only did he have two sacks, but he ran a back down from behind. He's 310 pounds and he can run real well."

But the big number for Feliciano and the defensive line was the three sacks. It was not only an improvement, it showed the Terps that they can only get better.

"It told us that we don't have to hesitate," Feliciano said. "We can get off of blocks and still not lose containment. We were able to get off the blocks and still get the sack."

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