UM in a rush to get to Duke QB

Terps defense aiming to pressure freshman

College Football

October 11, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Ask him, and in a single sentence, Gary Blackney can summarize his defensive philosophy at Maryland.

"We try to make the quarterback's mother miserable," said Blackney, the Terps' defensive coordinator.

While that may not be the most comforting thing for Sheila Schneider, mother of Blue Devils freshman quarterback Mike Schneider, to digest going into tonight's game between Maryland and Duke, it has certainly been an effective strategy for Blackney the past four weeks.

The Terps (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won four straight games and given up just 6.75 points a game during that streak, mostly thanks to a terrifying pass rush that has given opposing quarterbacks all kinds of trouble.

Last week, Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst spent much of game picking himself up off the turf at Byrd Stadium, as Kevin Eli, Shawne Merriman, Randy Starks and D'Qwell Jackson took turns knocking him in the chin. On the year, Maryland has 20 sacks, which is second-best in the ACC behind Florida State's 22.

This week, the Terps will try to go after Schnieder, a talented player who Duke coach Carl Franks admits is probably playing before he's ready. Schnieder started the year splitting time with junior Adam Smith, but Franks eventually decided to go with youth.

"Mike is a guy we wanted to bring along a little more slowly than we have," Franks said. "But we feel like he's the guy that can move the team the best."

Such is life at Duke (2-3, 0-2), where Franks has spent six years building for the future, and six years struggling to deliver. The Blue Devils have lost a record 27 straight games to ACC opponents.

Maryland has helped contribute to some of Duke's recent misery, beating the Blue Devils, 45-12, last year in Durham, N.C. In 2001, Maryland's first season under coach Ralph Friedgen, the Terps defeated Duke, 59-17.

"They've scored a lot of points on us the last couple of years," Franks said. "A lot of it is because we've just been beaten physically up front."

To keep the game close, Duke will try to run the ball behind one of the biggest offensive lines in the league. The Blue Devils' average size up front is 6 feet 5, 313 pounds. Running backs Chris Douglas and Alex Wade should both get their shots as they attempt to wear down a defense that has giving up just 104 yards a game on the ground.

With as beat up as Maryland has been this year, that might not be a bad strategy. Friedgen was so worried this week about losing another starter to injury, he decided Wednesday not to practice in pads for the first time since the preseason.

With a bye week on the horizon, Friedgen was worried his players might take it as a message that he wasn't taking Duke seriously. But with players like guard Lamar Bryant barely able to practice at all with a bad shoulder, he felt he had no choice. Steve Suter (knee), Latrez Harrison (concussion), Merriman (sprained hand) and Eli (bruised ribs) have also been limited this week.

"If anyone else goes down, we won't be able to line up," Friedgen said. "Sometimes you just have years like that. You can't search for reasons why."

Maryland also needs quarterback Scott McBrien to stay healthy this week, because backup quarterback Orlando Evans had to go home to California this week to deal with personal matters. Freshman Joel Stantham, who has attempted just one career pass, will be the backup.

That's just one more reason for Maryland to rely heavily on sophomore running back Josh Allen, who will start ahead of Bruce Perry for the third straight week. Allen is averaging 4.7 yards per carry this season, and leads the Terps with five touchdowns. His running ability has been a huge key to Maryland's play-action passing game recently. After starting the year miserably, McBrien has completed 60 percent of his passes and thrown for five touchdowns in the past three games.

Despite all that, Friedgen has been less than thrilled with the Terps' offensive attack.

"Offensively, I'm still a little disappointed," Friedgen said. "Against Clemson, we started out well, but then we missed some blocks inside and weren't as sharp as we normally are on the offensive line. It wasn't one individual, it was a collective effort. We lost our focus. ... We can't have days like that and expect to win."

NOTES: Offensive lineman Akil Patterson, who was suspended two weeks ago for violating team rules, has withdrawn from school. ... Maryland's streak of consecutive sellouts might end at three. About 4,000 tickets were available yesterday for tonight's game.

Tonight's game

Duke (2-3, 0-2) at Maryland (4-2, 1-1)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

Time: 6

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 27 1/2

Series: Maryland leads 28-18.

Last meeting: Maryland defeated Duke, 45-12, last year at Wallace-Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.

Last week: Maryland defeated Clemson, 21-7. Duke was idle.

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