- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

Maryland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson couldn’t shake the hollow feeling of looking at the scoreboard as he walked out of Byrd Stadium on Saturday.

West Virginia had just accumulated 387 yards of offense, including 301 rushing, on the once-stout Terrapins defense in a 31-19 victory. Maryland, so often an aggressive team under coach Ralph Friedgen, yielded control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

More importantly, the Terps (1-2) dropped a winnable home game for the second consecutive week, further slicing the margin for error for a team that still must face three teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

“I take it very personally,” Jackson said. “I’m the last one to leave that locker room, and that was the biggest thing going through my head. I look up and see how many yards they had, it’s just a disappointing feeling. We have the talent to win games, and we know we’re capable of doing it.”

The Terps’ pressing concern is when that will happen. Coach Ralph Friedgen figures Maryland is in for another tough game Saturday when it visits Wake Forest (1-2) in the Terps’ first true road game.

It will be all the more difficult if the run defense fails to contain Wake’s Chris Barclay, who rolled up 210 yards and four touchdowns Saturday against East Carolina. The Terps gave up more than 300 yards rushing for only the second time in Friedgen’s four-plus seasons, surrendering 137 in the fourth quarter alone.

Maryland’s offense had to share blame for Saturday’s loss, going 2-for-13 on third-down conversions and rushing for less than 60 yards for the second consecutive week.

“Things could get worse before they get better with a young team,” Friedgen said. “We’ve been in this position before. We’ve been 1-2 and won 10 games.”

The Terps lost two of three to open the 2002 and 2003 seasons before rallying for at least 10 wins — including a bowl game — both years. Yet the 2002 team returned eight starters from an offense that helped win an ACC title, and the 2003 team brought back 16 starters from a squad that won the Peach Bowl.

Maryland doesn’t enjoy such a wealth of experience this season, especially on defense. Its youth is especially evident on the senior-free defensive line, a group severely punished by West Virginia’s bruising ground attack.

“Once we learn ourselves, we’re going to be a great team,” junior cornerback Josh Wilson said. “We’ll get all the kinks out, we’ll get the penalties that keep the defense on the field out. Once we get all that out, we have a great quarterback, a great system, wide receivers [who] are doing anything for us right now. Defensively, we just have to help them out.”

Friedgen might not have the patience to wait for that to happen in the natural course of the season. The coach hinted some changes could be made this week, though he was unwilling to commit to any yesterday.

“We’ve never played this poorly on defense in the time I’ve been here,” Friedgen grumbled Saturday. “I have some pretty creative coaches who usually find a way to get the people in the best spot at the best time. What we have to look at is that we have the right people out on the field.”

It will have to happen soon if the Terps are to avoid missing a bowl game for the second straight season.

Though it seems early to declare any game a must-win, Jackson said the Terps will be in that situation against Wake Forest.

“We have to gain some momentum,” Jackson said. “[On] defense, we have to find a way to stay consistent. Special teams have to find a way to be consistent and also the offense. That’s our problem right now; one is playing better than the other or the other is playing better than the other. We just have to put it all together.”

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