COLLEGE PARK -- His Terps use the run-and-shoot offense so it figures that Maryland football coach Mark Duffner has some ideas on how to stop a passing attack.
Duffner's teams have faced just about every defense: nickel and dime packages, all-out blitzes, twist and stunts from defensive linemen.
But when the Terps (0-4) meet Pittsburgh (2-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Byrd Stadium, Duffner knows there is no simple way to stop quarterback Alex Van Pelt, who directs the Panthers' one-back set.
Van Pelt, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior from San Antonio, has completed 85 of 136 passes for 1,222 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He is Pitt's career passing leader with 9,326 yards. He broke Dan Marino's mark of 8,597 two weeks ago against Rutgers.
And to hear Duffner talk, Van Pelt is the next Marino, the Miami Dolphins' superstar.
"Van Pelt has as quick a release as anybody," said Duffner. "He is poised, confident and makes good decisions. He has all sorts of skills that make him a prolific passer. He's the best quarterback we've faced so far, and maybe the best we'll play against all year."
Maryland has faced average passers in Virginia's Bobby Goodman,West Virginia's Darren Studstill, North Carolina State's Terry Jordan and Penn State's John Sacca.
All except Jordan have had success against the Terps. Maryland has allowed only 197.8 yards passing, but three of the four teams used their running games to set up the passing attack.
How does Maryland plan to stop Van Pelt?
"Pass rush," said Duffner. "We're giving quarterbacks too much time to throw."
But don't expect a lot of blitzing. Maryland basically will use five (nickel) or six (dime) defensive backs and try to get pressure from rushing four to five players.
"Actually, we haven't implemented our game plan yet, but we'll probably get into it today," said Darren Drozdov, Maryland's senior defensive tackle. "But I don't think blitzing will do any good. He takes only three to four steps, then releases the ball. He refuses to take a sack. He'll dump it anywhere."
Said senior linebacker Mike Jarmolowich: "The thing about blitzing is that it puts a lot of pressure on your cornerbacks. Other teams have blitzed, but they haven't gotten to him often."
Van Pelt's quick release almost dictates that the Terps use five or six defensive backs. Plus, Maryland has a number of experienced secondary players. Of the eight players on Maryland's two-deep depth chart in the secondary, seven have started at one time or another.
Also, Maryland probably will use a "burglar" or "bandit," a safety who free-lances, as the Terps try to force passes into the middle of the field. The Terps likely will use this in their regular defense.
"I think we're going to give them a little bit of everything from the nickel and dime packages," said senior Scott Rosen, a starting cornerback. "They are a little like us offensively, but not with our pace from the no-huddle offense."
But Maryland still will have to get some pressure on Van Pelt. Last year the Terps used a similar scheme, but Van Pelt picked them apart. He completed 27 of 45 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns, including a bomb of 58 yards, in the Panthers' 24-20 victory.
Van Pelt has outstanding targets in wide receivers Junior Green and Dietrich Jells and tight end Rob Coons. And he gets good protection (one sack this season) from a line led by left tackle Reuben Brown and right guard Gary Gorajewski.
Maryland's defense, meanwhile, has registered only seven sacks.
"We're getting there, but we're always a step away," said Drozdov. "We're working on it every week. Come Saturday, it may be just as important to get our hands up and block the passing lanes as it is getting a sack. We're going to need a good effort from the defensive line, either way."
NOTES: Senior starting QB John Kaleo worked out with the team yesterday and is expected to play Saturday. He sprained his right knee in the third quarter of Saturday's 49-13 loss to Penn State and did not return. . . . NCAA officials have confirmed that Maryland's nine-game losing streak is tied for the longest in the country with Minnesota. The Terps are off to their worst start since 1970. . . . Junior Jaime Flores (Poly) has replaced senior Darren Colvin (Aberdeen) as the Terps' starting outside LB. . . . Terps junior RB Mark Mason is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing, averaging 129 yards. He is first in all-purpose yards with 178 per game.