It is all coming together for Maryland’s offense.
Coach Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator Charlie Taafe and quarterback Shaun Hill are on the same page. The downfield passing game is there. The power running game, led by Bruce Perry, has continued to excel. So has the option.
Because of their balance on offense, the Terrapins can befuddle opposing defenses by using motion and changing formations and personnel groups almost every down. The results: 330 points, 23 shy of the regular-season team mark set in 1951 and 1982, eight wins and a No. 13 AP ranking.
“The thing I like about what we’re doing now, we can make adjustments in the game and it’s not like a monumental thing,” Friedgen said. “Charlie and I will talk on the phone, get Shaun, and he’ll adapt in the game. That’s when we start to really understand what we’re doing with the offense.
“Coach Taafe is doing a great job calling plays. We’re really mixing things. We mix personnel groups, you know, we’re in, we’re out. Coaches, when I see them after the game, they tell me how tough we are to defend. … We’re doing things, four or five weeks ago, we weren’t capable of.”
Friedgen said his team is on schedule with the learning curve he set in fall practice. Late October is when he expected the Terps (8-1, 5-1 ACC) to grasp the complexities and intricacies of his offense. In Saturday’s 47-14 win over Troy State, seven Terps caught balls, and Hill hit his fourth and fifth options for big gains. Three tailbacks played, all ran hard and were effective receivers. Freshman Jason Crawford carried the load in the second half, and rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown.
“We were going to play [Jason] regardless [Saturday],” Friedgen said. “He’s a horse when he trucks it up in there. It just seems to be all falling into place for Jason right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of him in the last two games. … I need everybody. That’s why I like what we’re doing with our team on offense. Everybody is touching the ball. Everybody is contributing. We’re not a one-man team. Everybody has to make a play.”
The Terps defense will have to make plays against visiting Clemson and quarterback Woody Dantzler Saturday night if Maryland wants to win its first ACC championship since 1985. Maryland is assured at least a tie for the title if it can win its remaining two games.
But injuries have taken their toll on the Terps, who have not beaten Clemson (5-3, 3-3) since 1992. Friedgen is prepared to use, and possibly start freshman cornerback Domonique Foxworth, whom the coach had planned to redshirt, if sophomore Dennard Wilson’s hamstring does not improve this week. Wilson, who is Tony Okanlawon’s backup, was injured against Troy State, and Oklanlawon is out indefinitely with an undisclosed medical condition.
Linebacker Andrew Henley broke his right fibula in Saturday’s game, and he is out for the year. Friedgen is optimistic that linebacker Mike Whaley, who did not play Saturday because of a stinger in his neck, will return this week. Hill hurt his ankle in the win, but it was not serious and he will play this week.