- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub may not win the Heisman Trophy, but Maryland’s ACC-leading pass defense is still wary. The Cavaliers ended the Terrapins’ chances for a conference title last season on the strength of Schaub’s three touchdown passes.

Virginia (5-4, 3-3 ACC) will visit Maryland (6-3, 3-2) on Thursday in a nationally televised game at Byrd Stadium. The winner remains in contention for the Gator Bowl as the ACC runner-up, while the loser settles for one of several lesser postseason games.

The Terps are still smarting from last year’s 48-13 loss at Virginia. Schaub completed 23 of 27 for 249 yards and three scores, while running back Wali Lundy had 84 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. Both playmakers return, which will force Maryland’s defense to split its focus .

“I don’t think we’ve been tested like we’re going to be Thursday night,” defensive coordinator Gary Blackney said. “We have to play a lot better than last year.”

Schaub was expected to contend for the Heisman; there’s even a schaub4heisman.com Web site. However, a shoulder injury in the opener cost him two games and nearly a half-season of momentum before regaining his touch. Schaub comes off his best outing, though, completing 41 of 55 passes for 393 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-37 loss to N.C. State on Nov.1.

Schaub throws lots of short, high-percentage passes that the Cavaliers sometimes break for big gains. Schaub has completed 71.7 percent of his throws with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games. He ranks second in the ACC to N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers in most passing categories, including a 142.9 passer rating.

“We have to stop them from getting extra yards after the catch,” safety Dennard Wilson said. “Schaub gets the ball off quickly, so we can’t let them [catch] the ball.”

Virginia has permitted an ACC-low eight sacks. The Terps defense’s 29 sacks are the ACC’s second most, but Maryland will temper its normal blitz schemes to offset Schaub’s quick release.

“You can’t let him sit back there and pick you apart,” Blackney said. “Quarterbacks are streaky, and if he’s hot you’re going to have to mix pressure with coverage.”

Maryland is the ACC’s best overall in pass defense and third against the run. The Terps are 13th nationally in total defense and sixth in scoring defense (14.4 points a game), allowing more than 20 points only twice.

The Terps have flashed a variety of defenses this year, including a short stint with a 3-5-3. Maryland mostly alternates a 3-4 and 4-3 depending on the opponent’s strength. That should help counter Schaub and Lundy. Maryland also has checked three opponents to less than 100 yards rushing.

“It’s not the schemes as much as it’s the way that they play them,” Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. “They cover every zone when they play zone, they rush in their lanes, they’re not going to give you the cheap play. When they play man, they are good at it. They mix things up just enough to keep you off balance.”

Said cornerback Curome Cox: “We want to stop the run because we feel we can adjust in the secondary and stop the pass.”

Notes — Running back Bruce Perry is doubtful after not practicing yesterday because of a sprained ankle. Receiver Rich Parson is questionable with a sprained ankle. … The Terps kept potential spies guessing with four players wearing running back Josh Allen’s No. 33 and three quarterbacks donning Scott McBrien’s No. 7 during practice. …

The resumption of the Tydings Trophy to the Maryland-Virginia winner will be delayed another year. The once annual award hasn’t been used since 1945. … Fans are encouraged to arrive several hours before the 7:45 p.m. kickoff to avoid traffic because classes haven’t been canceled. The Metro will remain open until 1:30 a.m.

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