Terps' receivers a hit as blockers

Friedgen praises physical effort in win over Virginia

College Football

October 03, 2005|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

COLLEGE PARK -- Every week this season, Maryland coaches have stressed the importance of blocking to their wide receivers.

"It's something that doesn't always get done," coach Ralph Friedgen said.

"It's been a hard thing for us to get them to do for a long time."

Not only did receiver Danny Melendez block on Saturday, but the lanky, 6-foot-2 senior also knocked one Virginia defender flat on his back. It was that kind of technique and effort from the unit that Friedgen credited to be a significant factor in Maryland's most potent offensive performance in a year.

After the Terps' 45-33 win against the previously undefeated and No. 19-ranked Cavaliers, Friedgen called his receivers "the most improved group of players on the team." Their blocking, he said, helped pave the way for Maryland's season-high 250 yards on the ground.

"Their blocking for the running game, without question in my mind, was the best blocking we've ever had since I've been here from wide receivers," said Friedgen, who is in his fifth season as head coach. "It was the best we've been associated with. You have to give credit to Coach [Bryan] Bossard and especially the wide-outs."

That's exactly what senior receiver Jo Jo Walker did.

"Coach Bossard has been a blessing for us and has helped our receiver corps get better every week," said Walker, who caught six passes for 69 yards and rushed for 23 yards on four carries out of passing formations against Virginia. "We just want to go out there and play with our hearts for him."

Bossard joined the team in March after three years as the receivers coach at Delaware. He took over for James Franklin, who is now the receivers coach of the Green Bay Packers. Some within the program have noticed a better connection between Bossard and the older receivers, like Walker and senior Derrick Fenner.

Regardless of whether it's a new chemistry between coach and player, or an increased desire on the part of the athletes themselves, there's no question Maryland's passing game has taken a quantum leap from where it finished last year - with 16 interceptions and eight touchdowns. The Terps ranked ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing offense in 2004 with an average of 178.5 yards per game. Under the direction of quarterback Sam Hollenbach, Maryland is now third in passing offense and second in pass efficiency.

"As far as last year and today," said Hollenbach, "I'm just more concerned about playing within the system and being somebody the guys can look to as a leader on the field."

Apparently, they do.

"We know that we are going to get hit anyway, so we have to make the catch and make Sam look good," Walker said. "He makes us look good; It goes hand in hand."

Four receivers totaled at least 50 yards against Virginia, which entered the game with the fifth-best pass defense in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Melendez led all receivers in the game with a career-high 125 yards and one touchdown on nine receptions.

"It's a credit to the offensive linemen," said Melendez, whose 10-yard touchdown reception on third-and-nine in the first quarter gave Maryland a 7-0 lead. "It all starts with them. They did a great job of protecting Sam [Hollenbach], and we did our job executing."

Tight end Vernon Davis has been Hollenbach's top target this season, and now has 19 receptions for 411 yards. His apparent 47-yard touchdown was called back after instant replay showed he stepped out of bounds at the 28-yard line.

Two plays later, though, Davis caught a 24-yard touchdown pass to give Maryland a 21-17 lead late in the second quarter. Davis caught four passes for 59 yards.

Senior Derrick Fenner caught three passes for 57 yards, including a 44-yard reception with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Three plays later, running back Lance Ball scored on a 14-yard run, and Maryland took the lead at 31-26.

Friedgen said aholding call on Fenner in the second quarter was "a tough one to make," but added he didn't have the view the official did.

"Fenner blocked the guy pretty good," Friedgen said. "We've been working very hard since spring practice on doing it the right way. It just hasn't been one of the things they've done very well, but they did it well Saturday."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

UM results/schedule

Record: 3-2, 2-1

Sept. 3 vs. Navy-a W, 23-20

Sept. 10 Clemson L, 28-24

Sept. 17 West Virginia L, 31-19

Sept. 24 at Wake Forest W, 22-12

Oct. 1 Virginia W, 45-33

Oct. 8 at Temple 1 p.m.

Oct. 20 Virginia Tech 7:45 p.m.

Oct. 29 at Florida State TBA

Nov. 12 at North Carolina TBA

Nov. 19 Boston College TBA

Nov. 26 at N.C. State TBA

a-at M&T Bank Stadium

Maryland @Temple

Saturday, 1 p.m., 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

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