COLLEGE PARK -- Other than gaining confidence, experience, physical strength and more knowledge about their roles, there isn't much the Maryland defense can do to improve.
After giving up 101 points in losses to Virginia and North Carolina, the Terps' defense ranks No. 106 and last in NCAA Division I-A in scoring defense (an average of 50.5 points allowed) and total defense (593.5 yards). The Terps are No. 103 in both rushing and passing defense, but coach Mark Duffner feels the situation will improve.
The next test is 7 p.m. Saturday at Byrd Stadium against a West Virginia team that scored the final 20 points to beat the Terps, 34-33, in Morgantown a year ago.
North Carolina rolled up a school-record 714 yards against the Terps last Saturday.
"Not to take anything away from North Carolina, but we beat ourselves," Duffner said. "If we stop the big play against them, we win the game.
"We went in with what we thought was a pretty simple game plan, but in the heat of the battle a couple of poor decisions were made. . . . We went in with a simpler game plan than the week before. It's going to be even simpler this week."
Against West Virginia, Maryland probably will start five players on defense who are in their first year of Division I-A football. Two others are in their second year, and the strong safety is a converted running back. Lineman Sharrod Mack and linebacker Cleveland Everhart -- who were out with injuries Saturday -- may return for West Virginia.
Offense rolls on
In a scenario that was commonplace a year ago, the defense struggled while the offense set records. If Jermaine Lewis hadn't been brought down at the 1-yard line at the end of a second-quarter 78-yard pass, he would have tied the school record for receiving, and Scott Milanovich would have had the school record for touchdown passes to himself. His five tied the record.
As it was, Milanovich had a school-record 34 completions, connecting on better than two-thirds of his 50 attempts for 405 yards. He looked more comfortable than he did in the opener, but some forget that he's a 20-year-old sophomore.
"We came out early and hit Jermaine on a big play [a 34-yard touchdown] on our first drive, and that gave everyone a ton of confidence," Milanovich said.
Milanovich 18th in the nation in passing efficiency and 10th in punting (45.2 average). Lewis is third in receiving yards per game (172).
More than 20 players from Maryland's 1953 team will reunite this weekend at College Park to mark the 40th anniversary of finishing the regular season unbeaten and being ranked No. 1 in the nation before losing to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
They'll have dinner with the current Terps on Friday night and be honored at halftime of Saturday's game.
Dick Bielski, Bernie Faloney, John Irvine and Dick Nolan will be honorary captains for the game.