- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Maryland’s defense departed its first two games as one of the most statistically downtrodden outfits in the country.

The numbers game Middle Tennessee will present Saturday won’t help matters at all.

After a pair of steamrollings on the ground - including last week’s overtime scare against James Madison and its spread-option scheme - the Terrapins will contend with another spread team almost certainly capable of confounding a bunch clearly vulnerable to huge gains.

“It concerns me quite a bit,” coach Ralph Friedgen acknowledged Tuesday.

As well it should, especially after Maryland (1-1) yielded 240 rushing yards in consecutive games for the first time since 2000. Even if the Blue Raiders (1-1) are more pass-oriented, they could still exploit holes in a defense without its top cornerback (the injured Nolan Carroll) that is prone to yielding 20 yards or more at a time.

In the opener, the Terps surrendered 300 yards on eight plays to California. A week later, James Madison rolled up 212 yards on just seven snaps.

“It’s a matter of a couple plays and chunks of yards,” cornerback Anthony Wiseman said.

That is undoubtedly the optimistic way of viewing Maryland’s early season defensive follies. But even if the Terps’ problems are confined to a fraction of the action, the repercussions remain serious against opponents determined to spread Maryland out.

That will be Middle Tennessee’s plan. Friedgen said the Blue Raiders usually use four- and five-receiver sets, which will render the Terps’ increasingly thin secondary even more susceptible.

Whether Maryland deals with a run-oriented spread offense or one that prefers the pass, its problems remain similar. On James Madison quarterback Drew Dudzik’s 70-yard run, Maryland linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield was duped on an option read. That allowed Dudzik to slip into space, where he forced one Terps player to miss a tackle and exploited the poor pursuit angle of another.

Such problems were both common and widespread enough to prompt the Terps to prioritize the simple process of maintaining responsibilities on each play.

“We had times the other night when guys were where they were supposed to be and maybe they missed a tackle or maybe somebody didn’t play their responsibility,” defensive end Jared Harrell said. “But that’s no one person’s fault.”

The greatest problem Friedgen identified was missed tackles. It wasn’t a surprising diagnosis, especially since Maryland so frequently found itself chasing ballcarriers who initially looked as if they were contained.

It’s also not an original issue, especially since Friedgen usually finds himself bemoaning the Terps’ tackling troubles in the first half of nearly every season - a cycle that has popped up early this year.

“Because you got to do it every game, that’s why,” linebacker Adrian Moten said. “We [give up] long runs and miss tackles, it’s going to come up every week. We can shut somebody out and miss one tackle, and Coach Friedgen will still say, ‘We need to work on our tackling.’ ”

Posting shutouts is a ways off for Maryland, which has yielded 87 points and 959 yards in two games. Simply bottling up Middle Tennessee, which stretched out the Terps with quick passes to the edge en route to a 24-14 victory last season, would be a good first step.

“With the spread, it’s going to attack someone different every time,” Harrell said. “When it’s your turn to make a play, you’ve got to make a play.”

Notes - Tackle Bruce Campbell (turf toe) and safety Jamari McCollough (ankle) will miss Saturday’s game, Friedgen confirmed. …

Friedgen said he is hopeful receiver Tony Logan (shoulder) will return this week. Kenny Tate and Wiseman have split the punt-return duties in Logan’s absence the first two weeks.

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