Maryland can look to WVU to find football Nirvana

September 15, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland football team plans to continue its quest for the Holy Grail.

In football terms, that equates to an efficient offense that can score at any time while keeping opposing defenses off balance.

The Terps won't have to travel far to find the gridiron Nirvana. Just head about 250 miles west to Morgantown, W.Va.

No. 4 West Virginia showed Maryland that a few well-placed, well-executed plays make all the difference between scoring quickly and needing 15 plays to get into the end zone on Thursday in a 31-14 victory.


It came down to patience, experience and confidence - three things the Mountaineers have, but Maryland is struggling to capture.

"I think we have a chance to be a good running team," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We also have to get better at running the ball and we have to get more receivers involved. Our protection has to get better."

Maryland has all the offensive ingredients - besides maybe the speed - to put a strong offense on the field like WVU. Both have good offensive lines, top-notch backs and capable receivers.

The biggest difference: A quarterback with the experience and the confidence to make the offensive scheme work to an advantage.

Pat White, one of the catalysts of the Mountaineers for the last two seasons, was rendered virtually ineffective, with the exception of a 22-yard touchdown run on WVU's second play. That added pressure on tailback Steve Slaton and, later, freshman Noel Devine.

And they responded.

WVU showed Maryland that explosive offense doesn't just mean long scoring plays. The Mountaineers had two 22-yard TD runs and two 1-yarders. To get there though, they broke off their share of big gainers.

WVU had gains of 10 or more yards on 26 percent of its plays (16 of 61), including seven that went for 20 yards or more.

Maryland didn't show the same capabilities. The Terps' gameplan was designed for ball control to keep WVU's offense off the field.

That forced Maryland into having to play the perfect game, but three turnovers, five sacks and five penalties prevented that notion.

"The problem is that when we get a penalty or a loss, we have to be able to convert," Friedgen said. "We have a chance to be a good football team and we'll find that out in the next few weeks."

Maryland quarterback Jordan Steffy didn't respond to those adverse situations as well as White. Steffy, who was making only his third start, didn't allow plays to develop in some cases, moving off primary receivers early to salvage short gains.

Maryland got 10 yard or more on only 10 of 61 plays (16 percent), and three plays of 20-plus yards in the game, two coming on the consolation TD drive with 5:50 remaining.

To become that good team, the Terps need to find a way to create the big plays. Like WVU's White, it will start with Steffy, but it will take time.

"He missed a couple of things this week. He's growing," Friedgen said. "He also made some plays, too. I believe it will happen. I would like it to happen in the next five minutes, but I know it's not going to."

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