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Terps hoping to correct red-zone miscues against West Virginia
Maryland drives stalled inside 20
Maryland coach Randy Edsall’s weekly news conference was delayed Tuesday as various pieces of technology could not sync up properly after he was prepared to begin talking about the Terrapins’ date Saturday against No. 18 West Virginia.
“It’ll be a long afternoon if it takes us this long to get started,” Edsall joked.
The same could be said if Maryland’s inability to finish in the red zone stretches into another week.
The obvious problem the Terps (1-0) encountered in their Labor Day defeat of Miami was managing just one touchdown in seven trips inside the 20. Maryland also kicked four field goals, tossed an interception and missed a field goal to cap those drives.
But is it a major concern as the Mountaineers (2-0) prepare for their first visit to College Park since 2007? Not necessarily.
Immediately after the opener, Edsall said the mistakes were correctable. Plenty of film study in the days since hasn’t led to a different diagnosis.
“We could see missed opportunities in the red zone as we went through every play,” center Bennett Fulper said. “We got to those situations and we’ll see a play here and there where one more block and you have a touchdown instead of three points. That really stood out in our minds. That could have been a huge difference when it came down to the end.”
Indeed, the Terps could have been comfortably ahead deep into the fourth quarter and not required a go-ahead field goal from Nick Ferrara in the final two minutes. Nor would Cameron Chism’s interception return for a touchdown both provided an extra cushion and created anxiety for Maryland, which had to kick off to Miami while holding a 32-24 lead.
For every point about struggling in the red zone, there’s the chance to counter and acknowledge the Terps made it there seven times in eight possessions. And it wasn’t a matter of inheriting good field possession; the Terps rolled up at least 60 yards on seven drives.
Two plays in particular dramatically changed the way Maryland’s work inside the 20 was viewed. Quarterback Danny O’Brien’s interception came on a play he probably could have run it in for a score. Later, typically sure-handed wideout Kerry Boykins dropped a likely touchdown pass; the Terps settled for a field goal two plays later.
“It’s kind of just locking in and finishing the deal,” O’Brien said. “Most of those drives were really well-executed all the way down there, and then you get down there and you really have to capitalize. We got down there a lot. It’s all correctable stuff. It’s not stuff that’s going to take a whole lot of change in what we’re doing. It’s just executing and finishing.”
If nothing else, Maryland had the chance to test some things out and learned about some plays that didn’t work well. Edsall said the Terps have the opportunity to tweak not only play calls but also personnel usage as a result of the inefficiency.
One player who could help this week is tailback D.J. Adams, who rushed for 11 touchdowns last year but was suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules. Edsall said Adams was “back in good graces” this week and indicated the sophomore had a place in the game plan against the similarly up-tempo Mountaineers.
Regardless of any changes, Maryland knows it must improve its ability to finish off drives if it is to enjoy a strong season. Of course, one of the biggest issues in rolling up points — actually sustaining drives — didn’t seem to be a much of a problem in the Terps’ first test.
“It’s a good problem to have that we were in the red zone so much and we still won the game,” tight end Matt Furstenburg said. “I think it’s something we can work on to fix.”
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About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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