Secondary picks off UNC, doubts

Maryland notebook

Maligned in 2000, unit holds Heels to 158 yards

Friedgen's pace pays off

Colleges

September 05, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Despite the solid play of safeties Shawn Forte and Tony Jackson, Maryland's secondary was the object of scorn for much of the 2000 season.

In seven of the 11 games, opponents totaled at least 200 passing yards, including five 300-yard games. But in Saturday's 23-7 win over North Carolina, the Terrapins avoided similar embarrassments - limiting the Tar Heels to 158 yards through the air - and allowed the defensive staff to keep more players toward the line of scrimmage.

Three times, including twice in the fourth quarter, Maryland intercepted North Carolina passes and answered the question of whether its defensive backs could handle the opening test.

"With our secondary, one of the things I [wondered] was how our corners would match up with North Carolina's receivers," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday. "I knew that if we could hold up on our man [-to-man] elements, we could get another man in the box and create some havoc."

Jackson and Tony Okanlawon had two pickoffs, and Curome Cox added a pass breakup. When Jackson went out with a toe injury, reserve safety Rod Littles came on to record four solo tackles.

"Mainly, I've been in for nickel and dime packages," Littles said, referring to alignments with five or six defensive backs. "It was just another responsibility."

No sweat

The enthusiasm over the quick pace of Friedgen's practices seemed like a lot of talk until Saturday, when Maryland felt as if it were breezing through its game.

"The game was so much easier than practice that you wouldn't believe," said wide receiver Guilian Gary. "As the game went on, I was worried about whether I'd be in shape to run this offense. It felt good to see that the summer workouts weren't for nothing."

Scoring the Eagles

Eastern Michigan comes to College Park with middling credentials, a 2-9 record in 2000 and a struggle to beat Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State, 16-12, last week.

The Terps, coming off zero winning seasons in the past 10 years, will still try to contain any cockiness after their opening win.

"As far as we're concerned, we're going to play Eastern Michigan like they're the No. 1 team in the country," Jackson said.

Pavarotti no more

Friedgen said he doesn't anticipate any more impromptu vocal performances of the musical variety this season.

The coach sang the Maryland fight song after Saturday's game, keeping his end of an arrangement he made with the school marching band while his team was still in two-a-day practices.

The band, while practicing, asked Friedgen to sing along with them, and he guaranteed a repeat at "4 o'clock on Sept. 1."

"I didn't know that they would get the podium out there and the microphone," Friedgen said. "I saw it on TV and said, `Oh, you idiot.' "

Miscellaneous

Landon Jones (dislocated toe) and Reggie Lewis (shoulder) are expected to return for Maryland Saturday. ... Eastern Michigan reserve linebacker Brian Jenkins is the brother of former Terps defensive lineman Kris Jenkins, now a Carolina Panthers rookie.

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