- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

Maryland defensive end Shawne Merriman yields 93 pounds to massive Virginia guard Elton Brown, but the Terrapins playmaker is preparing for a smackdown tomorrow nonetheless.

“I want to hit him straight ahead,” Merriman said. “I’ll take the punishment for it, but it will be a big collision.”

There will be plenty of collisions when the Terps’ 21st-ranked defense meets Virginia’s 10th-rated offense. The Terps’ starters haven’t allowed more than 17 points this season. Few teams have run effectively against a no-name defensive line or beaten the secondary consistently.

Maryland hasn’t played such a high-octane offense, though. The Terps contained scrambling Temple and West Virginia quarterbacks, but this time they’ll encounter a trio of Cavaliers who are the ACC’s top passer, all-purpose yardage leader and touchdown leader. That means Maryland can’t cheat by blitzing the safety, stacking an extra defender near the line or double-covering receivers.

Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans has made Cavaliers fans quickly forget predecessor Matt Schaub. Hagans leads the ACC in pass efficiency (156.5) and is second in total offense (216.6). Running back Alvin Pearman, who doubles as a returner, is the top all-purpose yardage leader (153 a game). Running back Wali Lundy’s 12 touchdowns lead the conference, and he is fifth in rushing with 598 yards. And Heath Miller might be the ACC’s best tight end.

If Maryland (4-4, 2-3) is to record its second straight upset over a ranked opponent and remain in bowl contention, the Terps must beat No.12 Virginia (6-1, 3-1) defensively.

“They’ll put as much stress on our defense as anyone to date,” Terps defensive coordinator Gary Blackney said. “In the business world, people that close are the people who get paid the big bucks. We always talk about finishing. We’ve had a couple opportunities we didn’t get done. The players know what they have to do, and now it’s just a matter of doing it.”

Fortunately, Maryland has a pair of prospective All-American candidates in middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and Merriman. Jackson has followed two-time All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson by leading the ACC with 11.1 tackles a game while earning three ACC player of the week awards.

“I think D’Qwell’s playing better than E.J. played,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “He’s all over the place. He’s breaking up passes, running guys down. I haven’t seen a better middle linebacker in the conference.”

But the Terps’ smaller defensive line must overcome the 338-pound Brown, who leads one of the ACC’s better lines. Tackles Henry Scott (271 pounds) and Conrad Bolston (280) can’t get tied up inside by Brown or the Terps’ pass rush will be neutralized outside.

“It’s the same thing we have to do every week because everybody’s always bigger than us,” Scott said. “We have to focus on technique.”

Said Merriman: “It’s a passionate, physical game. I don’t know what the score will be, but you can count on it to be a physical game.”

Notes — Maryland practiced inside its bubble yesterday because of heavy rain. The short field prevented long passes and the Terps did not use pads. … Punter Adam Podlesh has been nominated for All-American honors. … T-shirts depicting last Saturday’s 20-17 victory over Florida State began selling around campus two days later.

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