Friedgen casts careful look at kinks in Terps' kicking

Out-of-bounds kickoff, errant snap are areas of the greatest concern

College Football

September 10, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Defense is a newfound strength and the offense is coming along for the 2-0 Maryland football team. Heading into the team's third straight home game against West Virginia on Saturday, coach Ralph Friedgen now pines for consistency from his kicking game.

The key word is concern, not crisis, after Saturday night's 50-3 rout of Eastern Michigan. Botched extra-point attempts and missed field goals didn't matter much for Maryland against a team that came to Byrd Stadium for a guaranteed payout.

But an errant snap by Jon Condo, then mishandled by holder Brooks Barnard, did deny Maryland an extra point after its first touchdown. And Nick Novak, a freshman who was anointed the starter by Friedgen late in camp, missed field-goal attempts of 28 and 40 yards.

On Saturday night, Friedgen described the foibles - including a kickoff out of bounds by Vedad Siljkovic - as inexcusable. He did not back off the sentiment during a news teleconference call yesterday afternoon, reiterating his intention to reopen the place-kicking competition between Novak and Siljkovic.

"We have to try to find someone who can make field goals consistently," said Friedgen, who said there was plenty of blame to go around, from the snaps and holds to the protection. Still, Siljkovic's 44-yarder late in the Eastern Michigan game is the only success in five tries. "Nick just has to get through making his first field goal. He just hasn't been able to get it done."

Otherwise, the first-year head coach was pleased with his team's coverage on punts and kickoffs, which denied Eastern Michigan decent field position.

Barnard averaged 46 yards on his two punts, and Siljkovic's kickoffs forced four straight touchbacks at one point. On the other side, Maryland's Jamal Chance partially blocked one punt by Eastern Michigan's David Rysko, and Leroy Ambush nearly blocked another.

"Our kickoff coverage was good, and I thought our punt defense was good," Friedgen said. "I thought we had another situation where we established good field position. I think they had one return where they got past the 30."

Otherwise, Friedgen expressed enthusiasm for this weekend's game against West Virginia, which he described as a rivalry "I can remember back to when I was playing," one he won't have to get his team up for after a 30-17 loss last year. "I don't think we'll have to say a whole lot. We'll be ready to play."

Maryland will enter the game without much in the way of injuries. Quarterback Chris Kelley remains the only player not cleared to play Saturday.

West Virginia, which improved to 1-1 with a 20-3 win over Ohio, has a no-huddle offense installed by new coach Rich Rodriguez that provides a different challenge for the Maryland defense.

Friedgen had seen the offense while at Georgia Tech when Rodriguez was at Clemson. Plus, Friedgen said his own team takes less time between plays than most no-huddle offenses. But he also said it would be tough for his scout team to prepare the first- and second-team defenses, as the scout team usually goes off of play cards.

"In this offense, you can't go off a card," Friedgen said. "So preparing for it is difficult."

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