For Maryland's offense, 'Red Zone' is dead end Failure inside 20 marks second loss

September 16, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- It's called the "Red Zone," and it starts at the opponent's 20-yard line. Maryland's football team has been there six times this season, and the Terps have scored only 18 points.

Red Zone has meant red light.

"We've got to focus on that," said Mark Duffner, Maryland's first-year coach, as the Terps began serious preparation yesterday for Saturday's game at West Virginia. "We're going to emphasize practice time in that area of the field. All the would'ves, could'ves and should'ves -- we've got to eliminate them."

Red Zone failures doomed the Terps in their 14-10 loss to North Carolina State on Saturday. Maryland was inside State's 20-yard line five times but came away with just 10 points.

Where did the problems begin? Was it the offense? Was it the quarterback? Did the pass protection break down? Could the receivers have run better routes? Was N.C. State's secondary that good?

It was all of the above.

"Actually, we have to improve in all the fundamentals -- better pass protection, better routes," Duffner said. "We've got to learn to put people away."

Maryland (0-2) had been in the Red Zone once in its opener at Virginia, and the Terps scored on a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Kaleo to Marcus Badgett.

Virginia, unlike most teams, used a zone defense, even inside its 20.

N.C. State played man-to-man. And the Wolfpack blitzed.

Most teams will continue to do that, and use techniques called "cones" or "brackets."

That's where the safety or cornerback covers the receiver depending on whether he breaks inside or outside. The same goes for the linebackers with the tight ends.

"Teams like to blitz, and there's not a whole lot of room to throw deep [in the Red Zone]," said Kaleo, the starter in the no-huddle run-and-shoot offense the past two weeks. "You can't stretch out the defense like when you're in your regular offense. I know I've got to throw better. Everything has got to be precise."

There always has been criticism of the run-and-shoot. The biggest complaint is that it limits the running and passing games inside the Red Zone because the field becomes shorter and defenses get tighter and more aggressive.

Duffner defended his offense.

"I don't understand why the critics say that," said Duffner. "I used the same offense at Holy Cross for six years [60-5-1 record] and we were pretty efficient from anywhere on the field. Any offense can have problems inside the Red Zone. What we've got to work on is execution."

Maryland does occasionally use two tight ends and a full-house backfield. But those packages are normally used in short-yardage situations.

Maryland senior slot receiver Richie Harris said it is just a matter of time before the offense clicks.

"N.C. State has a great defense and their secondary is excellent," said Harris. "You have to remember that sometimes good defensive teams force you not to execute."

One example was when N.C. State safety Mike Reid picked off a pass intended for Harris near the left sideline at the Wolfpack 1 with 1:35 left in the game.

But what about with 2:54 left in the half? Kaleo, on the Wolfpack 11, threw over the middle and into double coverage to Harris. The pass was intercepted by Ricky Turner.

"The coaches said it was their fault on that one, that I should have gone to another receiver," said Kaleo, who had led the Terps to a 26-yard field goal earlier in the quarter.

The Terps had another chance on their next possession, but Kaleo's 17-yard pass to Dan Prunzik in the end zone was nullified because he was ruled out of bounds. On the next play, Kaleo overthrew Badgett in the end zone, then Dave DeArmas missed a 34-yard field-goal try as time expired to end the half.

The Terps had one more opportunity on the game's final play. On third-and-13 from the Wolfpack 17, Harris seemed to have a step on the cornerback but the pass was lofted too high and knocked down by Reid.

Even if the pass had been completed, Harris may not have scored because he wasn't in the end zone and likely would have been tackled by Reid if he had made the catch.

"Most teams bring more pressure and you've got to make things happen quicker in that area," said Prunzik, a senior wide receiver. "Sometimes that means breaking off a pattern sooner, or throwing a lot quicker. A lot of the timing comes with experience, and we're still learning the offense."

Duffner, whose team is gaining 402.5 yards per game, said: "Our football team has played hard, and John Kaleo has been very competitive. If our team had not played hard and was just going through the motions, then I would be extremely irritated. They're trying their best. Now we have to focus on the little things that are somehow keeping us from winning."

* Sophomore running back Larry Washington, who was suspended for the first two games after admitting to one charge of felony forgery of a credit card, may play this week. Duffner said Washington has been participating in intense training sessions.

'Red Zone' futility

A look at how Maryland scored only 10 points on five possessions inside North Carolina State's 20-yard line on Saturday:

Once inside the 20... ... Plays/yards... How it ended

Second quarter

First-and-goal at the 8..... 3/-2... ... Dave DeArmas 26-yard FG

First-and-10 at the 11...... 1/0.... ... Interception

First-and-10 at the 17...... 3/0.... ... DeArmas missed 34-yard FG

Third quarter

First-and-10 at the 14...... 5/14... ... Doug Burnett 1-yard TD run

Fourth quarter

First-and-10 at the 14...... 3/-3... ... Pass deflected by Mike Reid

F: ........ ...... ......... ....... ... as time expired

Note: Maryland also had a drive stopped at the N.C. State 23-yard line with 1:35 remaining. Kaleo's pass for Harris was intercepted by Reid at the 1.

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