- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

The source of the Maryland football team’s offensive struggles last week started at the beginning — of nearly every other series.

The Terrapins failed to gain a yard on 13 of their 29 first down plays in Saturday’s 14-10 victory against Florida International. That victory improved the Terps to 3-1, but left them with plenty to work on during a bye week leading up to an Oct. 7 visit to No. 24 Georgia Tech.

“Those were mental errors that caused that,” coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday, referring to the first-down struggles. “That’s one of the things we have to get better on. That’s what was really disturbing to me as anything. It wasn’t what they did, it’s what we did or what we didn’t do. We started off with too many second-and-longs.”

Of some concern was a rushing attack that was stuffed behind the line six times on first down and dropped for no gain twice. The Terps have relied on the run in the first month of the season as the team’s passing attack matures, and junior tailbacks Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore have both thrived.

It hasn’t gone without notice. Florida International frequently placed eight men in the box to counter the rush, and it’s a trend that likely will continue until the Terps can consistently extend the field in the passing game.

‘We like to run the ball and a lot of people know that,” Lattimore said. “Coach always emphasizes that if we can get to second and at least halfway or third-and-short, we have a chance. Second-and-long, it’s almost like you have to throw, and that hurts any team.”

While balance is important, Friedgen also wants to eliminate the mental errors that plagued the Terps on Saturday. He pointed to a sequence in the third quarter when the offensive line ran the wrong play, leading to a holding penalty on Donnie Woods. Quarterback Sam Hollenbach was sacked and Stephon Heyer was flagged for a personal foul on the next two plays, setting up a third-and-40.

“We just blew some things that we shouldn’t have blown that actually had been practiced,” Friedgen said. “Even some of our veteran guys missed things — run and pass, not just run.”

Weatherly practices

Senior wide receiver Drew Weatherly returned to practice this week, participating in half of the skill position workouts Tuesday and Wednesday before making it through yesterday’s rain-shortened session.

Weatherly underwent surgery three weeks ago to insert a screw for what he described as a “little broken bone” in his right foot. The senior owned 19 of the 23 career receptions in the Terps’ receiver corps entering the season, but has yet to play because of an injury that first surfaced three weeks into camp.

“It seems like it’s been a long time coming and it seemed like my time was finally here and then a little injury,” Weatherly said. “Notice I call it little … I’m just going to go out there and play football like I know how.”

Weatherly’s return would provide Maryland some flexibility at receiver. Sophomores Danny Oquendo and Isaiah Williams and redshirt freshman Darrius Heyward-Bey have emerged as reliable targets, but no other wideout has caught a pass in four games.

“We have to be smart there, but they think he’ll be back Monday ready to go,” Friedgen said. “That would give us some depth that we haven’t had.”

Wilson back in boot

Cornerback Josh Wilson wore a walking boot on his right foot yesterday, just as he did last week. Wilson returned three kickoffs in Saturday’s victory, and also made three tackles — including a touchdown-saving tackle after chasing down tailback A’mod Ned in the fourth quarter.

The senior sprained the foot in practice late in August and missed a week of camp. Friedgen said the boot could be a precaution Wilson uses throughout the rest of that season.

“I don’t know how anyone can run like he does and have a bad foot,” Friedgen said. “I never ran like that with good feet.”

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