Undressing by Cal reveals Maryland’s flaws

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BERKELEY, Calif. | Maryland’s football players believed they could author a stunner in the Terrapins’ season-opening trek to No. 12 California.

Instead, the weaknesses the Golden Bears exposed on the Terrapins’ roster came as no surprise at all.

Lurking behind the glow of the annual preseason era of good feelings was a harsh reality. Maryland’s offensive line had only two players with an appreciable track record. Its defensive line owned seven career starts.

And when trying to figure out the root causes of Saturday’s 52-13 loss, the underlying camp concerns are a logical place to begin.

The offensive line figured all along to be a source of worry. Beyond senior Phil Costa and mammoth junior Bruce Campbell, the Terps (0-1) had plenty of bodies and few certainties. And the opener suggested as much, with California sacking quarterback Chris Turner six times.

Campbell’s turf toe injury didn’t help matters, and should it linger it could cloud a season that just commenced. But of greater immediate concern is simply improving protection for Turner, whose availability is just as crucial as Campbell’s if the Terps are to reach a fourth straight bowl game.

“That’s going to be a work in progress,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “If I could tell you that’s going to be fixed overnight, that’s not going to happen. These guys are learning on the run. It is what it is. We have to try to make it the best we can.”

There were mitigating factors, of course. The Golden Bears looked every bit like the Pac-10 contenders they were touted as, with an aggressive defensive line and a stingy secondary creating headaches for Turner throughout the evening. Last year’s experienced line, which vacillated between good and ineffective the entire season, likely would have struggled as well.

Still, the Terps were 4-for-17 in their third-down-conversion attempts, hinting at systemic problems that require more than a little tinkering.

“I think Cal’s defensive front is one of the better fronts we’re going to see all year,” Turner said. “It was a pretty good test for our O-line. We’re not trying to make excuses for our O-line, but we have to make the corrections. That’s the thing. I think it was probably good for our line to go up against that and see what we’ll be facing all year, worst-case scenario.”

Things weren’t much better on the defensive side, which discovered a scheme built upon pressure doesn’t work all that well when the unit cannot come close to the quarterback.

Cal’s Kevin Riley looked vastly better than the reeling player who struggled for three quarters in last year’s loss in College Park, slinging passes around while easily carving up the Terps’ secondary.

Occasionally, the defensive line converged upon Riley. More often than not, he had plenty of time to survey his options as his blockers deftly picked up whatever blitz Maryland sent while taming the Terps’ front four.

“I thought we got whipped up front,” Friedgen said. “I think they blocked our defensive line pretty good.”

Likewise, Maryland’s offensive line was handled throughout the night. By the end of the game, the entire second string was on the field, a collection of untested pieces that featured only one player (walk-on Danny Edwards) who did not make his collegiate debut Saturday.

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