For Terps, mix-ups signal trouble

September 16, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

There was a point in the game Thursday night when ESPN television cameras cut to a shot on the sideline of Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen with a perplexed look on his face as he spoke with first-year defensive coordinator Chris Cosh and defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo.

After the Terps' 45-24 loss to No. 5 West Virginia - a rout in which Maryland fell behind 28-0 in the first quarter - Friedgen was left with even more questions about his team's defense.

He spent yesterday reviewing game film but said the problems extend beyond missed tackles. Apparently, the wrong defensive schemes were run on occasion against West Virginia.

"I know we're having some communication problems," Friedgen said Thursday night. "Defenses are being called and they're not being executed. Other defenses are being run. We gotta get that solved and fixed. I don't know why that's happening."

Friedgen said after the game that in addition to his duties as offensive coordinator, he's also going to have to get a little more involved in the defense to help work out the kinks.

Asked whether the glitches were part of the natural progression of hiring a defensive coordinator, Friedgen said, "I don't see why."

"You signal a defense, that should be the one that's run," he said. "I gotta see what we're doing, if we're making it too complicated or what, I don't know. But I'm going to take that one under my hat now, too, and get involved in it."

It's not unusual at practice to see Sollazzo signaling plays like a third base coach, but all of the defensive coaches are in communication with each other on game day through headsets. Coaches were not available yesterday to offer a further explanation for the breakdown.

Cosh, a former assistant at Kansas State, was hired in mid-December to replace Gary Blackney, who retired at the end of last year's 5-6 season. Cosh is a native of Washington and coached the Terps' linebackers in 1997. While defensive coordinator for Lou Holtz at South Carolina in 2003, Cosh ran a 4-3 scheme and the Gamecocks allowed an average of 368 yards per game. In his first three games at Maryland, the Terps have allowed an average of 338.

At Maryland, Cosh took over a defense that returned all its starters on the defensive line, has depth at linebacker and a relatively experienced secondary. Still, the Terps were unimpressive in wins against Division I-AA William and Mary and against Middle Tennessee State.

In the season opener against William and Mary, the Tribe's backup quarterback threw a fourth-quarter, 49-yard touchdown pass, and against Middle Tennessee, the Terps were out-gained in total yardage.

The Terps allowed 383 yards of total offense to West Virginia, including 340 on the ground. The Mountaineers averaged nearly 8 yards per carry and threw the ball just nine times. In all, West Virginia ran 26 fewer offensive plays than Maryland.

One touchdown, though, can be attributed to mistakes on special teams. Cornerback Josh Wilson's fumbled exchange on a reverse to Darrius Heyward-Bey on the first kickoff return led to a West Virginia score three plays later. And a Mountaineers field goal in the second quarter could be partially attributed to 15-yard personal-foul penalties on the Terps' Christian Varner and Dave Philistin, which helped West Virginia move from midfield to the Terps' 16-yard line in two plays.

Linebacker Wesley Jefferson spread the blame.

"We just didn't execute as a team," he said. "Coaches, players - as a whole, we just didn't execute."

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