COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s defense did not allow a touchdown in the season opener — no small feat for a unit that last year yielded an average of 34.2 points and 457 yards per game.
Playing in a 3-4 alignment under first-year defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, Maryland held William & Mary scoreless over the final three quarters last Saturday in an underwhelming 7-6 victory. The Tribe mustered only 229 yards of total offense, and both their field goals came on short drives following turnovers.
Any feeling of satisfaction over the performance was tempered by the fact that it came against an FCS opponent and the Terrapins won despite a variety of miscues.
“I saw the defense out there flying around and playing well,” coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday. “We still have a lot of work to do to eliminate some of the mistakes that some people won’t see but we, as coaches, saw on film. I like the way we are playing, how they are running to the ball, but like I said, we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of improvements to make.”
Demetrius Hartsfield made 13 tackles and sealed with win with a fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter. But a look at the game film proved to be a sobering experience.
“We have a lot of things we need to work on, such as getting off the field on third down and having more big plays, but it’s something we can build on,” the senior linebacker said. “Giving up six points is good, though. That definitely helps the offense.”
And this offense could use plenty of help. True freshman quarterback Perry Hills threw three interceptions and freshman running back Albert Reid lost a fumble. Until the offense gets its bearings, it’s going to be up to the defense to make up the difference.
“Regardless of the situation, as a defense you always want to carry the team,” Hartsfield said. “If you look at all the best teams in the NFL, their defenses are one of their strong points. To have a great team, you have to have a great defense.”
Hartsfield and lineman Joe Vellano (11 tackles and an interception) did their part, but the going gets a lot tougher this weekend when Maryland faces Temple, a team that ran for 285 yards against the Terps last year in a 38-7 rout.
The Owls lost several key players from that squad, but they still have plenty of firepower. In a 41-10 rout of Villanova last week, senior Matt Brown ran for 145 yards rushing on nine carries and Temple amassed 301 yards on the ground.
“It all starts up front,” nose guard Darius Kilgo said. “Last year they came in and were really physical and we weren’t prepared for that. This week we’re going to focus on blocks, getting them in the backfield and things like that.”
Kilgo knows a performance similar to the one the Terps turned in against William & Mary won’t be good enough.
“We made a lot of mistakes on defense,” he said. “We have to execute on defense in all aspects. Temple has a heavy offensive line, and I feel like if we can knock them off the ball and get them in the backfield, it will destruct everything.’
Kilgo and the rest of the Terrapins won’t soon forget last year, when the Owls raced to a 31-0 halftime lead at Byrd Stadium.
“They came in here and just embarrassed us,” Kilgo said. “It’s definitely a payback game.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)