Maryland seeks solutions for fourth-quarter foul-ups Lack of speed, depth are major factors

September 23, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- It has been Maryland's biggest problem: The Terps take a fourth-quarter lead and can't hold it.

The Terps had a 15-12 advantage against Virginia with 14:53 left and lost, 28-15. They were ahead 10-7 against North Carolina State entering the final quarter and lost, 14-10. And they held a 19-point edge over West Virginia with 14:48 remaining, but lost, 34-33.

The cold fact is, Maryland has been outscored 43-14 in the fourth period.

Maryland coach Mark Duffner has intensified practice this week heading into Saturday's game against No. 10 Penn State (3-0) in University Park, Pa. After every session, the offense and defense are placed in a simulated fourth-quarter situation. The offense is required to drive downfield in a certain amount of time, and the defense is asked to prevent a score.

But practice may not be enough.

Duffner can attempt to correct some of Maryland's problems, such as poor tackling and missed assignments. Other problems, such as depth and speed, won't be solved for years.

The Terps are still going through growing pains.

"Usually, a team has been in the same system for at least three or four years, and it's easy to correct things right away," said senior Scott Rosen, recently switched from safety to cornerback. "In our case, we're still learning terminology, the ins and outs. I believe if we had the same coach for at least a year, we would have won at least two of our three ballgames."

Adding to the confusion are inexperience and a lack of depth on the defense. Only five players who have started on defense in all three games started last season. Of the 11 starters, two are freshmen and one is a sophomore.

After the first team, Maryland's talent pool is pretty thin, a result of the Joe Krivak recruiting era. Two of the second-string defensive linemen were on offense last year. Senior Mike Jarmolowich, an inside linebacker, is the only starting linebacker with any substantial playing experience. Duffner finally moved senior Dave Marrone, a regular last year, back into the starting lineup Monday.

In the first two games, Duffner substituted often but cut down on it last week against West Virginia, but the Mountaineers scored 20 fourth-quarter points, anyway.

"We just don't have a lot of depth," said Jarmolowich. "We're going to, eventually, with some of the players he is bringing in, but that's going to take some time."

Duffner said: "The idea is to make things happen. We need to work on the fundamentals, and we're still learning this system. But I'd like to point out that we've gotten better each week. We simply have to execute more effectively in the fourth quarter."

Duffner says his team has not tired in the final periods, but other teams have fresher legs.

And faster legs.

Duffner and recruiting coordinator Kyle Lingerfelt went after speed in signing freshmen such as Jermaine Lewis and Al Wallace, but they won't have an impact for a couple of years.

Maryland lacks speed at defensive end and outside linebacker, and the Terps had trouble containing West Virginia's Darren Studstill, a mobile quarterback who simply outran the Terps on ++ rollouts. His speed gave Mountaineers receivers time to get open. Studstill completed 14 of 21 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns. He only played the second half.

The Terps also may have changed their defense a little too early. Maryland went from two to three deep in the secondary once it took the big lead, as it tried to cut off the seams and the big pass down the middle. Instead, West Virginia used short passes, with Studstill completing a long of just 26 yards in the fourth quarter.

"We operated our normal, in-the-game-type-situation defense," said Duffner.

Maryland has had its share of offensive trouble in the fourth period, too. The Terps didn't have one substantial drive in that quarter against Virginia. They failed to score on two drives inside the N.C. State 25 with less than seven minutes remaining.

And against West Virginia, the Terps failed to run time off the clock, as Duffner made a number of questionable decisions. Despite having a 19-point lead, the Terps stayed with their no-huddle offense. One possession lasted three plays and 57 seconds and ended with an interception by John Kaleo.

Another possession lasted only five plays and 53 seconds. Yet another was only four plays and 1:04. Plus, after Kaleo's interception with 9:26 left in the game, Maryland's run-and-shoot offense went to the run, or short passes in the flat, until the Terps' final drive.

Duffner said Saturday that he never considered using a huddle because the Terps had executed well in their regular offense during the first three quarters.

"We got away from our attacking style. I think the coaches were trying to run some time off the clock, and it just didn't work out," said Kaleo. "But if we get a couple of first downs, we're doing the job."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.