Terps O-line faces crucial test

After not allowing a sack in the first 2 games, Maryland faces a Temple defense averaging 4 per game.

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. There's a lot of reason for optimism around the Maryland football team this season, but the most unheralded group is the big uglies.

Anchored by senior left guard Andrew Gonnella and junior right tackle R.J. Dill, the young Terrapins offensive line is drawing attention for their stellar pass protection.

Maryland has yet to allow a sack, and is just one of five teams in the nation to can claim that fear. Among the others – Boise State, Texas A&M, Middle Tennessee State and AUB – Maryland has the most pass attempts (96).

And much of their success, though a small sample size, stems from the experience the group has garnered.

"We have five guys who are very confident. We're excited about who we've got up front, and the guys that we have our capable. We've played together for a long time," Dill, who has made 20 consecutive starts, said. "We all know what each other are thinking, and a lot of it is communication up front."

Center Bennett Fulper stumbled upon a starting job during the second half of 2010 after injuries forced a lot of mixing and matching across a patchwork offensive line. For the same reason, Max Garcia and Josh Cary both saw action as reserves. This season, Garcia and Cary made their first career starts.

And this is why the coaches and players agree that despite early success, there's room for improvement.

""The first two games, when you look statistically that we haven't given up any sacks and the number of yards that we put out, there has been productivity there," head coach Randy Edsall said. "We're a work in a progress. We're nowhere near we need to be or where we think we're going to go."

Thus far, the Maryland offense has produced efficiently. Maryland owns the nation's 15th-best passing attack. The up-tempo offense, comparable to that of Oregon's and West Virginia's, is averaging 82.5 plays per game. In contrast, team averaged just fewer than 64 per game last season.

But against Temple, the offensive line will face a more daunting task. The Owls, credited with holding opposing offenses to just eight points per game (4th in the nation), is averaging four sacks per game.

"[The offensive line] is going to get tested this week," Edsall stated, bluntly.

The Owls are led by senior defensive end Adrian Robinson, a Bronko Nagursky Trophy candidate and preseason Honorable Mention All-American. After a season in which he totaled 4.5 tackles and 3.5 sacks, Robinson earned All-MAC honors.

In 2011, Robinson already has two sacks and two tackles for loss.

Robinson and Dill are both Pennsylvania natives, and Dill remembers playing basketball against Robinson in high school. Dill commended Robinson on his pass-rush skills, and a career at Temple which includes an 18.5 sack resume.

On Saturday, the two will meet again, on a different set of circumstances, as Dill tries to keep O'Brien's uniform clean for a third straight game, which is part of the line's overall mission.

"We want to be perfect every game, so we're going to strive to be perfect in every category," Dill said, alluding to run blocking, coming off the ball better, pass protection and slowing down blitz. "We're not going to be happy unless we give up no sacks in 12 games. That's the goal."

Gilbert returning in two weeks

Dill said that left tackle Justin Gilbert will be back in two weeks. Gilbert, a junior, was the opening day left tackle in 2010 before suffering a season-ending left knee injury against West Virginia.

Gilbert reinjured his knee the first week of spring practice, tearing his ACL and undergoing surgery. In late August, Gilbert began participating in individual drills.


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