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Terrapins tackle issues

November 02, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland defense has to wonder where it all went wrong.

The Terrapins aren't struggling with the things they are doing.

The problem is more a case of the things they aren't.

Maryland is being put to task for its failure to contain Clemson in last week's 30-17 loss, which all but eliminated the Terps from ACC championship considerations.

The Terps were all around Clemson's ball carriers, but Maryland found itself trying to pull hits out of clear air. And now, it is grasping at straws for answers.

"We knew (James Davis and C.J. Spiller) were explosive, but they were doing things that I have never seen," said Maryland linebacker David Philistin. "They were using their speed and cutting back on runs. They were doing the things they had to do to win."

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It was "now you see 'em, now you don't" tackling for Maryland, which needed multiple contacts to bring down Clemson's runners.

"It was just a matter of wrapping up," Philistin said. "We didn't need to have an explosive hit. A lot of guys were trying for that. It was just a matter of getting the ball carrier on the ground. I would have settled for that."

Clemson used counter plays and screen passes to keep Maryland off guard. The Tigers rolled up 249 yards of rushing - including 129 by Davis and 106 by Spiller - en route to 428 yards of total offense and a much-easier-than-expected win over the Terps.

"We've seen those plays, we know (opponents) are going to run screens," Philistin said. "The effort's there. We're running to the ball. We've just got to wrap up."

The inability of stopping the big play has put the Terps in the hole they are now in. Maryland is 4-4, including 1-3 in the ACC, with four games remaining, starting with Saturday's game at North Carolina.

Maryland needs to win at least two of the games to become bowl eligible, but more than two will enhance the level of the bowl for the Terps.

"We have to improve our tackling and we need to make more plays on both sides of the ball," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "We are letting a lot of plays get away from us, whether it's catching a pass, making a block, making the interception or getting on a fumble. I think in order for us to be successful, we need to make those plays and not let them slip away from us."

Maybe the biggest problem for Maryland's defense was the shear speed that Clemson brought into the game. The Tigers were too quick for the Terps, a problem Maryland has experienced in the past.

"The speed is big," Philistin said. "We go against (running backs Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore) every day and they are good backs, but they don't have that kind of speed for us to experience. I haven't seen speed like that since we played West Virginia."

But tackling isn't something Maryland's defense hasn't seen. Philistin said the Terps practice tackling every night and are constantly doing drills. The added dimension of speed changes the tackling dynamic, though.

"I don't know how long it actually takes to get accustomed to the speed," Philistin said. "I wish I did. It could be one game, three games or one quarter. We still need to tackle. When we face teams with that kind of speed, we need to take better angles to cut them down and put them on the ground.

"It's frustrating because it's fundamentals. We work on tackling so much. It's just fundamentals."

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