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The defensive damage

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If there’s something to be said for any new scheme, it’s that it should not be fully evaluated until after there’s a decent enough sample size to work with.

Still, the early returns on Maryland’s defense weren’t exactly stellar.

The Terps yielded 542 yards on Saturday to California, which was the second-most since Ralph Friedgen took over in 2001. Only the Orange Bowl to cap Friedgen’s first season was worse. And it was much worse, since the Ol’ Ball Coach dropped 659 yards on the Terrapins in his Florida swan song.

Don Brown’s debut as defensive coordinator brought a different sort of dissection than the ones Maryland fans are accustomed to seeing.

For all of the heckling former coordinator Chris Cosh took, his bend-but-don’t-break outfits never gave up 500 yards. Only once – in a nationally televised loss at West Virginia – did the Terps yield 40 points.

In fact, here’s an interesting tidbit from the Cosh years: The Terps yielded 450 or more yards on six occasions between 2006 and 2008 (including the bowl, since there’s only so much interim coordinator Al Seamonson could change at that point). There was one striking thing in common about all five games:

484: vs. Nevada, 2008 (W, 42-35)
484: Georgia Tech, 2007 (W, 28-26)
466: Boston College, 2007 (W, 42-35)
461: California, 2008 (W, 35-27)
458: Florida State, 2006 (W, 27-24)
453: Eastern Michigan, 2008 (W, 51-24)

Well isn’t that an interesting record?

One other defensive note. Maryland yielded eight plays of at least 20 yards – the scoring plays of 73, 39 and 42, as well as gains of 20, 39, 40, 23 and 24.

Add it up, and that’s eight plays for 300 yards – just three yards shy of what Maryland managed on 73 total plays on Saturday.

But that won’t be what Friedgen dwells on.

Nope. I’d bet anyone the Chick-Fil-A sandwich I’ll buy in the student union after tomorrow’s weekly press luncheon that he’ll say Maryland just needs to eliminate the handful of big plays.

He doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter, since being upbeat sure beats throwing in the towel after a game. And he’d certainly be correct in saying California is the best offensive team the Terps will face all year.

But when you give up at least 20 yards on one out of eight snaps, there are some problems to fix – which is almost certainly what the Terps intend to do before James Madison comes calling on Saturday.

Patrick Stevens

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