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Terps' 'D' will get road tested

September 05, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Variety may be the spice of life, but it's the curse of a defense.

That's the kind of voodoo the University of Maryland will be trying to avoid on Saturday when it faces Middle Tennessee in its first road game.

Maryland will be trying to avoid the jab of Middle Tennessee's needle when the Terps give their new defense its first technical test against a team that the alignment is designed to stop.

The Terps unveiled their 3-5-3 set in last week's 14-7 victory over Delaware. The defense is based on stopping the new era of spread offenses which are popping up in the professional and college game which use speed and short passing to get players out in open areas to make plays. The defense is also designed to blitz linebackers from various angles to give new ways to pressure the quarterback.

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The defense was used on an introductory level last week and the Blue Hens had only one late touchdown to show for the efforts. They used the short passing game and more of a power running game.

But the Blue Raiders' style adds more variety. Middle Tennessee adds an option wrinkle to its game, which will put Maryland's new disciplines to an early test.

"(They have) given a lot of people problems," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Any time you can read one guy in an option, two guys you eliminate on defense. If you have speed like they have in the backfield and two athletic quarterbacks, you can really run two plays and have a pretty good offense."

If Maryland has anything up its sleeve, it might be that it showed very little when it came to the capabilities of what the new defense has to offer.

"I liked our energy (against Delaware). I thought everyone ran to the ball really well," said Maryland linebacker Trey Covington. "I think we swarmed as a defense. We didn't give up many points. We mostly just stayed in base (defense). We blitzed a few times, but not really. I like to blitz, so hopefully we'll incorporate that more."

The blitz may have to wait another week because of Middle Tennessee's offense. The Blue Raiders mix it up enough to keep opponents toeing the line instead of charging it.

"They mix in a few bootlegs and they throw the ball pretty well," Friedgen said. "The other thing that concerns me is we haven't seen a lot of it in spring practice or in fall camps. We're going to do more so that we can try to play against it better than we did last (time)."

Because of the option, Maryland will need to stay in the basics again. Some of the Terrapins remember what that is like, considering Maryland struggled to a 24-10 win over Middle Tennessee at home in the second game of the 2006 season.

"I know they're a very talented team," Covington said. "I remember them giving us a heck of a game a couple seasons ago. They were really fast. They tried to spread us out and move the ball on us.

"We need to be more solid up the middle and eliminate some of the mental errors we had. Other than that, I think we did pretty well. We basically just need to tackle better."

But for the Terps, that isn't just against Middle Tennessee. It will be the same every week.

"We played pretty good as a defense (against Delaware), but we will get tested more and more every week," said Maryland defensive back Kevin Barnes. "So we'll take it for what it is worth now, but still need to improve every game here on out."

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