When the Maryland Terrapins (3-4,1-3) host the Indiana Hoosiers (3-4,0-4) for homecoming Saturday afternoon, it will be one of the Terps’ last quality chances to pick up wins in order to become bowl eligible.
The Terps, who will likely need six wins to qualify for a bowl, still face ranked opponents Penn State and Michigan State as well as Michigan, who was listed as receiving votes, and Rutgers.
In order for the Terps to come away with a win on Saturday, Maryland must find some consistency on the defensive side of the ball. The Terps have been unable to keep opponents from scoring in recent weeks, allowing 137 points over their last three contests — all losses.
Despite being successful in forcing turnovers in recent weeks, Maryland has struggled to stay off the field on defense, which has lead to the Terps looking gassed as the game progresses.
“[Getting off the field has] really been an Achilles heel for us,” defensive coordinator Andy Buh said. “You look at every drive last week, and go back to the last couple of games, there’s always a third and long situation in every scoring drive that we just can’t get off the field on.”
Without injured pass rusher Jesse Aniebonam, who was the Terps’ leading sack man last season and went down against Texas, Maryland has struggled to consistently produce pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Terps have had multiple games where they fail to register a sack at all, after producing over nearly 40 sacks last season.
Buh said the Terps don’t plan on changing their blitz schemes aside from small tweaks depending on the opponent — instead the team just needs to win one-on-one battles.
In addition to the struggles along the defensive line, the Terps struggles at quarterback have also affected the defense, according to head coach DJ Durkin. Despite this, “there’s no quick fix,” he said. Instead, he has focused on something the team could work on this past week in practice.
“We’ve got to be more consistent,” Durkin said. “We’ve got to play at a higher level. We’ve played good defense at times this year, especially earlier in the year. We need to get back to that … There’s been a real clear message this week and I think they’ll respond.”
Woods said part of the struggles to stay consistent may be related to a lack of experience on the defensive side of the ball. Despite this, he said the Terps are close to making the plays they need and must continue to stay in position to make stops.
“The plays are there to be made and people are right there,” he added. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go our way.”
Another way the Terps can help out the defense is by being more consistent on the offensive side of the ball. After being forced to slightly change the rushing scheme following injuries to quarterbacks Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, Maryland seems to have finally adjusted to the new system.
The Terrapins topped 100-yards on the ground last week for the first time since their win over Minnesota in late September, and their dynamic running backs are becoming more involved in the passing game. Running back Lorenzo Harrison attributed the success to the fact that the backs were more patient against the Badgers and were able to follow their lineman more successfully.
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell said the change in the passing attack to target running part came for multiple reasons: Defenses have begun keying on on D.J. Moore, one of the top receivers in the Big Ten, and linebackers are often covering the Terps explosive backfield tandem in the passing game.
Expect this to be more than just a one-game trend, as Bell said the Terps would continue to incorporate passing to the backs into their offense.
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