Terps are again late to punch

Friedgen to address fourth-period letdown while time is still at hand

September 19, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

COLLEGE PARK — The game at Byrd Stadium ended at 3:25 p.m., but the light in Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen's office was still on around 9 p.m.

He stayed to watch his team lose one more time, to see what, exactly, went wrong in its 31-19 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.

One thing that went wrong was the fourth quarter. Again.

Maryland has been outscored 38-13 in the fourth quarter in its past two games. Two weeks ago, the Terps (1-2, 0-1 ACC) entered the final period with a 10-point lead over Clemson before watching it slip away and losing, 28-24, because of two touchdowns they allowed in the final eight minutes. The Tigers earned 72 of their 114 rushing yards in the fourth quarter. And of the 301 rushing yards West Virginia racked up on Saturday, 137 came in the fourth quarter.

"Is it a conditioning thing, or is it a fatigue thing?" Friedgen said yesterday. "Or is it just a point of emphasis? It almost came at the exact same time. The score was 19-21 with 8:10 left to go. All we needed was a stop, and we're back in this thing."

But because they couldn't get it, Friedgen said he is looking at switching personnel on defense, and will discuss it further at tomorrow's weekly news conference. He's also toying with the idea of changing practices to heighten the players' endurance for the fourth quarter.

"How do I get this team to be stronger, tougher and more physical at the point of attack?" he asked after the game. "Do I wait till spring practice? Do I do it during the week? Do I go out in shells and hopefully they'll be so hungry to hit on Saturday ... I don't know. I've contemplated all of them.

"I'm going to try to find some way to reach these kids."

The team struggled at practice last week, regardless of what they were wearing. If the players didn't run a play or a drill right, Friedgen made them repeat it until they did. Some groups had to run extra sprints at the end of practice. Twice in the past two weeks, it was nearly three hours before they were off the field.

Senior linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said fatigue wasn't the problem Saturday.

"We just couldn't seem to win the battle up front," he said. "The front seven couldn't get a feel for their offense. They just ran the ball down our throats today, and there is nothing you can say to that.

"In my years here, we have never let a team run the ball on us like that," he said. "We have to go back and correct some things."

Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson agreed.

"We just have to play better assignment football," he said. "Sometimes, when one guy misses an assignment, the other 10 guys have to make up for it. We were just late getting there today."

Maryland's defense was on the field for 75 plays, only 13 more than the offense. But the disparity in time of possession was about 10 minutes, and 64 of the Mountaineers' 75 plays on offense were runs.

"The offense didn't seem tired," Friedgen said. "The defense did. It just may be a state of mind sometimes. Even on the last drive, we were moving the ball.

"Some of it is a little bit luck, too," he said. "You see some of these things and wonder, `Why did that happen at that particular moment?' but you have to make your own luck, too. I understand that."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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