Terps make big play to find big plays

September 20, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland football team has proven it has a lot of fight.

The Terrapins have sparred with three opponents and have outpointed two of them to take the decision.

But while Maryland has been able to go toe-to-toe in its first three games, it is obvious there is something missing. The Terps are lacking a big knockout punch.

"We need more big gains. We have been good at the 6-7-yard gains," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said at his weekly media conference. "We have to get in position to make plays. It's tough to go 60 or 70 yards every time. You look at our two drives (in last week's 31-14 loss to WVU), we had a chunk play (for substantial yardage) in there. That made the 6- and 7-yard gains more effective. We have to throw and catch the ball better, and we have to mix things up."


You can count the number of big-yardage plays by the Terps on one hand. Maryland's longest pass is 33 yards and longest run is 42 yards, but neither went for touchdowns.

In fact, Maryland has only one touchdown pass this season out of nine touchdowns and 77 points overall.

Maryland's offense, for the most part, has shown an ability to control the ball and grind out yardage. It had effective performances in the first two games, but they were against what would be considered lesser opponents - NCAA I-AA Villanova and Florida International, considered one of the lowest ranked Division I teams in the nation.

The other was in a loss to then-No. 4 West Virginia in a game where Maryland needed much more firepower, which the Terps will need with their the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, starting this weekend at Wake Forest.

The holdups are two-fold.

First, the Terps are making the little mistakes, like quarterback sacks and penalties, that push them into long-yardage situations, which tend to give the opposing defenses the upper hand.

"You can't afford mistakes," Friedgen said. "There are a lot a little things, but they are more mental than physical. Some of it is inexperience. One thing that hurts are sacks. We get them and they put us behind schedule."

The other factor is the development of quarterback Jordan Steffy. He has shown he can run the Maryland offense, but does it with more of the safety-valve passes, which are usually used to prevent losses than being the main thrust of the offense. In many cases, Steffy is bypassing the play's primary target and moving down the line.

The plays move the ball, but are low risk and low reward. That also makes it tougher for the offensive line, which has to work all the more harder to protect Steffy.

"The protection is not bad and our line has blocked well," Friedgen said. "The sacks they are getting are on coverage sacks. We are having trouble with technique. We have to get better. We have to get people open on time and throw them the ball."

Maryland offensive lineman Jaimie Thomas is proud of what the Terps have been able to accomplish, but knows more can be done.

"We have to give (Jordan) time for him to look for his first and second options," Thomas said. "Coverage sack. ... It is tough. We just have to do our best and stop the rush as long as we can. We don't know what's going on behind us. We just hope he gets the ball out. We were supposed to give him three to four seconds to work."

The Terps have tried to compensate for the lack of precision on plays. The short cuts are only causing a lack of precision.

Friedgen used a play in the West Virginia game as an example. It was a case in which a receiver was supposed to run a 15-yard route, but cut it off short and covered only 13 yards. The Terps got the completion, but the two yards that weren't covered came back to hurt the their drive in the end.

"We have to keep our composure and be sure we are precise and exact," he said. "If the route calls for a 15-yard route, you have to go 15 yards. The kids haven't bought into that yet."

The big plays will come once the Terps have bought into Friedgen's point.

"Actually, (the line has) to give the running backs bigger holes to run through and Jordan more time to throw," Thomas said. "It starts with us, but it still comes down to everyone doing their jobs. Everyone has to be on the same page. We all have to know our assignments. As long as we are on the same page, we will be fine."

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