- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 4, 2012

That Maryland left Saturday’s 33-13 loss to Georgia Tech with uncertainty about its offense hardly is unexpected. Its unusually injury-ravaged quarterback corps offers an obvious explanation.

Now comes the tricky part: figuring out how much of a trickle down there is beyond the need to play to linebacker-turned-QB Shawn Petty’s skills over the final quarter of the season.

It was clear enough what those might be on offense, where offensive coordinator Mike Locksley rotated four tailbacks and utilized direct snaps to one of them (Wes Brown) in what the Terps dubbed the Wild Crab. There was little more that he could do.

Of equal, and perhaps greater, concern is the impact on Maryland’s consistent and stout defense.

The Terps (4-5, 2-3 ACC) surrendered a season-high in points, and the Yellow Jackets’ 401 total yards also were the most Maryland has allowed. More ominous was how it unfolded, with the Terps at their most undisciplined.

Was it facing the triple-option, a perfectly reasonable explanation?

“We did come out and stop them on the first drive,” defensive end Joe Vellano said. “We were kind of preaching that all week because that’s a tough thing when you go against them. They made some plays, and we expect them to, and you just have to get them on the ground.”

There is a less pleasant possibility, one Maryland might find taking root as it wraps up the regular season against Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina. This could be the first sign of a defense trying to compensate for a struggling offense.

It didn’t happen in September and October as Maryland adopted coach Randy Edsall’s theme of each man simply doing his job. The Terps’ offense wasn’t a paragon of efficiency then, but it was more effective than the ramshackle version it used in the first half Saturday.

Maryland managed only 61 total yards in the first half, and just one yard in the air. It didn’t cross midfield until less than a minute before halftime, by which point Georgia Tech led 20-0.

For much of the day, it seemed the Terps’ best hope of scoring might be a defense or special teams strike. Maybe it nudged some players into ill-advised action.

“I would hope that wouldn’t be the case, but maybe human nature would have that happen,” Edsall said. “We had some guys defensively today that didn’t do their job and guys we felt have in the past. I hope that wasn’t the case, but it might have been where some guys felt, ‘I need to do this.’ But you play this type of offense, you have to be disciplined in terms of making sure you do your job.’

The upshot for Maryland is it won’t see the triple-option again for some time. It can return to its usual defensive principles rather than adjusting to a scheme it won’t contend with more than once a year.

That alone provides hope to the Terps they experienced a defensive anomaly.

“When you go against a team like that, it’s hard to just say ‘Do your job’ because you kind of have to do a little more because guys are getting cut [blocked] and you have to make the extra-effort plays,” Vellano said.

Then again, the Terps still must contend with the ACC’s top three offenses, in scoring and total yardage. It is possible Maryland could surrender another 20 (or more) points in a half in any of its remaining games.

It is even more plausible Maryland, already ranked 119th of 120 teams in total offense, will struggle to move the ball. Maryland’s defense will have enough challenges down the stretch, and trying to do too much will surely be counterproductive.

“When you get in situations and you get behind and guys see that guys think, ‘Oh man, I can do this,’” Edsall said. “That’s when you make problems worse for yourself. I think that might have happened a couple times.”

NOTES: Maryland’s game Saturday at Clemson will kick off at 3:30. ESPNU will provide the broadcast. …

• Guard Bennett Fulper returned Saturday after missing the last two games with turf toe. He spelled Josh Cary for chunks of the second half.

“We had planned to play him and get him reps and he came out of it well,” Edsall said. “I thought he did a good job while he was in there. We’ll have some decisions to make this week.”

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