- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Maryland offensive line looked across the field in its last game, only to find Florida International in an unusual set. The unit saw the look briefly in practice that week, though not nearly enough to be able to quickly decipher the correct blocking scheme to use.

Seconds later, the Terps returned to the huddle after another unsuccessful play.

Those things happen from time to time. The problem was it was typical of the entire night, a 14-10 victory that was hardly a statement of superiority heading into an eight-game ACC schedule.

The numbers were unwelcome. The Terrapins’ offensive line accounted for 22 of the team’s 37 mental errors, and Maryland didn’t score in the second half. Instead, a night that could have yielded a relatively easy victory wasn’t decided until the final play.

Yet a look at the film didn’t turn out to be so painful. Sure, there were plenty of mistakes, but nothing so complex it couldn’t be worked through during the Terps’ week off.

“It made me feel like it’s something that can be fixed,” center Edwin Williams said. “It’s not like we weren’t giving effort, it wasn’t like we were just packing it in. It was just mental errors and detail things that can be cleaned up quick.”

The Terps (3-1) can only hope all those mistakes were corrected during their only bye week of the season as they prepare to visit No. 18 Georgia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC) on Saturday.

The most beneficial aspect of the week off might have been an opportunity to heal nagging injuries. Both left guard Donnie Woods (cramps) and left tackle Stephon Heyer (sprained right thumb) briefly left the Florida International game with injuries, and reserve guard Garrick Clig had time to rest a pulled hamstring.

The depth reassures the Terps, but it doesn’t assuage the concern over the line’s protection of quarterback Sam Hollenbach. The senior absorbed three sacks against Florida International, and he frequently shared the backfield with defenders and was forced to quickly jettison the ball several times.

“Anytime somebody takes a shot at your quarterback, it’s a little hit on the offensive line,” Woods said. “It’s kind of a pride issue for us. Sam got banged around a little bit, and we didn’t take that too lightly. I think we have a new focus coming into this week.”

The Terps will need it against a tenacious Georgia Tech defense that held Notre Dame to 14 points in its season opener and hassled Virginia Tech on Saturday throughout a 37-27 upset.

The bye week afforded Maryland the opportunity to spend more time than usual reviewing film, and it also allowed them to take an extended look at Georgia Tech.

In that time, offensive line coach Tom Brattan said he walked “a fine line” trying to both erase his unit’s mental errors and maintaining its readiness to withstand an aggressive opponent.

“You don’t want your guys ‘thinking,’ but at the same time they can’t just come to the ball at 1,000 miles an hour and hit you in the mouth,” Brattan said. “[You ask] ‘Who am I hitting? What steps am I taking? If they do this, I do that.’ There’s all these kind of asterisks that go with it. … The defense that you’re going to see kind of puts you in the mind-set. These guys blitz 85 percent of the time. Ten snaps is eight blitzes and they could all be different.”

Georgia Tech is yielding only 68.6 yards rushing a game — 10th nationally — so Maryland faces a challenge to both run and pass. No matter which one the Terps ultimately rely on, they know better decision-making will be important.

“We didn’t play real smart, and you could see that,” Woods said. “We were one or two blocks away from breaking a long one, and then we have a mental breakdown to set the drive back. … You can’t commit stuff like that and expect to have a good game.”

Note — Senior wide receiver Drew Weatherly practiced the last two days and could play Saturday. Weatherly missed the first four games with a broken bone in his right foot that required surgery last month.

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