- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 31, 2010

COLLEGE PARK, Md. | If Maryland is to launch its comeback season with an uplifting victory, the Terrapins have no option but to stop Navy’s multifaceted running game.

Navy’s spread option attack last year averaged 280.5 yards rushing, the fourth-highest total in the nation. Ricky Dobbs scored 27 touchdowns, an NCAA record for a quarterback. He was just as adept at pitching the ball.

Fortunately for the Terrapins, they’ve had most of the summer to prepare for Monday’s opener. To simulate the speed at which the Midshipmen execute their option, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen ordered his scout team to run it without a ball.

“It’s very, very difficult to defend,” Friedgen said. “We have a good plan. But it all depends on how well we execute and how disciplined we are. You have to play your responsibility. It really puts a lot of stress on your defense.”

Safety Antwine Perez is wary of making a mistake. Dobbs doesn’t pass often, but when he does, the Terrapins better be ready.

“You get lazy and they take a shot deep, it’s a touchdown,” Perez said. “I’m the last line of defense. You can’t be back there and bite on the run, because that’s when they’re going to throw the ball down the field.”

Maryland went 2-10 last year, by far its worst record since Friedgen arrived in 2001. Defeating Navy would go a long way toward erasing the memory of 2009, but that can’t happen unless the Terrapins stop Dobbs, fullback Vince Murray and slot backs Aaron Santiago and Gee Gee Greene.

“It’s probably the most important thing. That’s what their offense has been doing for years,” Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak said. “They get three or four yards a play, and that just marches them down the field. They’re in great shape, and they really wear you down.”

Navy began using the option under coach Paul Johnson, who left for Georgia Tech in December 2007. Ken Niumatalolo took over, and under his direction the Midshipmen led the nation in rushing for a fourth straight year in 2008.

There was a slight decline last season, but Navy ran well enough to go 10-4, including a 35-13 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl.

When Maryland and Navy last met in 2005, the Terps held the Midshipmen to 246 yards on the ground in a 23-20 victory. That won’t mean much in the long-awaiting rematch.

“Navy’s a lot better now,” Friedgen said.

The main reason is Dobbs, who is 10-3 as a starter and has rushed for at least 100 yards in nine of those 13 games. He’s scored at least four touchdowns on four different occasions.

“He’s a smart quarterback. He’s able to read everything,” Wujciak said. “We’ve seen him on film; he’ll get it to the pitch man at the last second. You don’t see him make a lot of mistakes, even in the passing game.”

Although Navy is coming off a 35-13 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl and Maryland lost its last seven games in 2009, the Midshipmen are taking nothing for granted.

“They lost a lot last year, but they lost a lot of close games,” Niumatalolo said. “(Friedgen) has done a lot during his tenure there. Our focus is to be ready for a great Maryland football team.”