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Terps Return Plenty on Defense, Few on Offense

Both sides of ball transitioning under new coordinators

September 20, 2012
By JIM ELLIOTT - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MORGANTOWN - For the second time in two home games, West Virginia is preparing for a noon kickoff. This time its against old pal Maryland, which it has played 37 more times than anyone else on the 2012 schedule.

WVU coach Dana Holgorsen likes those early wakeup calls.

''We're trying to play fast around here,'' he said. ''What is a better way to start fast than playing early? As opposed to sitting around being lethargic, let's just get up and play.''

Article Photos

Receiver Stefon Diggs is a threat in a number of different ways for Maryland, much the same way Tavon Austin is for West Virginia.

AP Photo

In the Terps (2-1), they'll see a team that is young on offense but features a veteran defense that is yielding just 19 points per through three games.

Those stats might be a bit misleading in that Maryland has faced Temple, UConn, and William & Mary. Temple is 111th in the country in total offense and UConn is 115th. There are 120 FBS teams.

Still, they're tackling and forcing turnovers, which is a good way to win games, no matter the opponent.

''They're a very strong defense,'' WVU running back Shawne Alston said, pointing out Terps linebackers Darin Drakeford and Kenny Tate, along with defensive lineman Joe Vellano in particular.

''They've definitely been forcing turnovers. They'll bring pressure and they play well together,'' Alston added.

Maryland has forced six turnovers in three games and is ranked eighth in the country overall on defense, yielding 227.3 yards per game.

The on-field personnel hasn't changed much from last year's game, won 37-31 by West Virginia, as the Terps brought back a ton on defense, but the guy in charge of it has changed.

Brian Stewart came over this season after having spent the past two years as the defensive coordinator at the University of Houston.

Rather than watching a bunch of film on Maryland, the Mountaineers have spent time this week pouring over video of last year's Houston defense in search of tendencies.

''From a personnel standpoint, we're very familiar with them,'' Holgorsen said. ''From a scheme standpoint, it is totally different. It's a different scheme than what they did last year. We've studied it, and we'll be prepared for it.''

It's the same for the Maryland offense, which has struggled to get untracked behind a true freshman quarterback and a new offensive coordinator. That is former New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, who spent six seasons as Maryland's running backs coach from 1997-2002. He replaced Gary Crowton, who spent just one season at Maryland, with the Terps ranking 68th in total offense and 89th in scoring offense under his watch.

''It's different; they're a full wide team,'' Holgorsen said. ''They'll substitute one of the wideouts for a tight end and play a tight end a good bit. Locksley's been a guy that has tempoed; he and I have had conversations about tempo and the running game for years. He's a guy that likes to tempo. It's hard to do when you have a freshman quarterback, a bunch of new running backs and an inexperienced O-line. They're not tempoing very much. If they do, so be it, we'll be prepared for it, but they're not doing it very much.''

The freshman quarterback is Perry Hills, who is from Pittsburgh's Central Catholic High School - the same school that produced Dan Marino and Marc Bulger.

He has completed 37 of 69 passes for 444 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions in leading an offense that ranks 119th in the country at 291 yards per game.

Maryland's leading rushers are Wes Brown (21 carries, 124 yards, 1 TD), and Justus Pickett (36-116-2) and the leading receivers are Marcus Leak (9-162-1), and Stefon Diggs (9-146-1).

''From a receiver standpoint they're going to look good. The two older kids, the (Kevin) Dorsey kid and the (Kerry) Boykins kid, are who we played against last year,'' Holgorsen said. ''They made a lot of plays against us and physically looked good. They're getting outdone a little bit by two of the younger guys that look really good. They have a bunch of running backs they're trying to figure out what to do with.''

Diggs is also a kickoff returner in the mold of WVU's Tavon Austin.

He has 11 punt returns for 152 yards and four kickoff returns for 123 yards, with a long of 45. He ranks in the top-25 individually in the nation in both categories.

''I know he's a tremendous return guy,'' Holgorsen said. ''Just sitting around watching it as a fan, he's a guy that keeps getting better and better. He's a guy we're going to have to focus on and contain.''