The Washington Times - September 9, 2008, 10:00PM

If there was one thing that seemed inexplicable watching Maryland lose at Middle Tennessee on Saturday, it was just how the Terrapins‘ defense continued to yield five yards a pop on wide receiver screens.

It wasn’t that the defense was completely inept. After all, it was on the field for nearly 40 minutes and really only gave up 17 points on its own (an interception return down to the 10 alleviates some responsibility for the other touchdown). And no one is arguing the Maryland offense was plagued by an insane number of errors.

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It’s just that the repetitive nature of the Blue Raiders’ attack made it look like the Terps had done nothing to adapt, which in turn infuriated many fans (including some who comment here).

Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh had his own take on how difficult it was to defend those quick passes off three-step drops.

“They are combo calls if you look,” Cosh said. “There was always a running play with the screen. what they do is if they feel the blitz, they’re going to throw the screen real quick. the receiver’s not even going downfield a step, so if you’re going off-man and there’s a four-yard cushion, you have to make the tackle. sometimes they make a tackle for eight, and at times they made it for two or three and get you ahead of the chains. They’re trying to spread you out and make it a perimeter game.”

So long story short: Better to concede a few yards and hope you can tackle than leave yourself vulnerable to runs to the outside – something Maryland was absolutely abysmal in defending the last few years. And let’s be serious: If Middle Tennessee had effectively run to the edge against the Terps, even more people would be calling for Cosh’s head because it was more of the same.

But which is worse? Giving up scads of big plays in similar situations or giving up scads of small-but-useful plays in similar situations?

It’s a catch-22 – and one you can be sure Maryland hasn’t faced for the last time this year.

Patrick Stevens