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Friedgen hopes potent offense isn't a problem

September 21, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Even University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen had to stop himself in midquote.

What did you (or I) say?

"We controlled the ball, but we were scoring too fast," Friedgen said. "I almost wish we took more time to score."

OK, who are you and what have you done with Ralph Friedgen? Mr. Offense 24/7? The guy who was the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers the year they went to the Super Bowl? The guy who used to believe that offense is the best defense?

There was a little realization that from here on out, the Terrapins are going to need to do more than just score points if they plan on being a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Maryland proved it could score points on Saturday in its 51-24 rout of Eastern Michigan, but the question was whether the defense can hold up during conference play.

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That's right. The DE-fense.

In a lot of ways, the offense was Maryland's best defense because the Terps had problems putting a leash on the Eagles. Eastern Michigan produced 453 yards of offense, including 282 passing.

That came on the heels of California's performance last week, when the Golden Bears put up 461 yards of total offense, including 423 through the air.

"I don't think we played too well," said Maryland defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre. "We came out and made a couple of big plays in the first quarter. We were really up ... we just have to stay that way."

Maryland blocked Eastern Michigan's first punt and then used a Jamari McCullough interception in the end zone to put the Eagles on their heels. The Terps scored 10 first-quarter points to give themselves the working margin they relied on for the rest of the game. Add an Adrian Moten interception to start the second quarter and it was a 17-0 lead.

But instead of the defense snuffing Eastern Michigan out, it seemed more like the Terps were more content with fencing the Eagles in.

Only the offense's nine scoring drives prevented all the defensive shortcomings from becoming costly, or at least, really obvious.

The Eagles' passing caused Maryland the most problems. Eastern Michigan was able to find openings between the hash marks and behind the linebackers. It picked up huge amounts of yardage, but no points.

"We have to recognize things a little better," said Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak. "We have to read all our keys and trust them."

The defense, still, was a little unnerving, although the offensive side of the ball didn't seem to mind. The Terps rolled out a couple of reverse plays by Darrius Heyward-Bey and a flea-flicker pass by receiver Danny Oquendo to Isaiah Williams for a score to show some punch while helping to defend the lead. Backup quarterback Josh Portis came in and rushed for 98 yards, including the entire 80 on Maryland's final scoring drive, to help choke off the clock.

"We go out there and try to score on every drive," said Heyward-Bey, who rushed for 81 yards and caught three passes for 31 yards and a touchdown. "I mean, we wanted to keep the defense off the field and give them some rest, but my mindset is to score on the first play and deflate the other team's emotions early."

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