Terps' Defense Focusing on UVA's Run Game

Maryland's defense will have their hands full stopping Virginia's strong running attack.

The Terps' run defense will face a tough challenge when the Terps travel to Charlottesville, Va. to take on the Virginia Cavaliers Saturday afternoon. The Cavalier running attack is led by a strong running back duo in senior Perry Jones and sophomore Kevin Parks in the backfield.

“They have two running backs that run all the plays, all different types of plays,” senior defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. “Each one of them is really good at it. Our goal is just to go out there and stop the run and get them on the ground.”

Jones has rushed for 295 yards so far this season and two touchdowns while Parks has rushed for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Jones ranks second among all active ACC career rushing leaders with 1,865 yards, trailing only Andre Ellington from Clemson. Jones is also second on the team in receiving yards and receptions this season with 221 yards from 22 receptions. His 102 career receptions leads all active running backs in the BCS and ranks second in the nation.

“They're definitely, I think, going to run the ball,” senior linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. “That's one thing that really stood out on film. They can pass but I think their strength is running the ball. Jones is a guy we've played against before and he's had a few big games. So like I've said, we've just got to stop the run first and not let them either of them have a big day.”

The Terps will have a long afternoon if they cannot stop Virginia's run game. Since 1937, the Cavaliers are 23-8 against the Terps when rushing for at least 150 yards. The Cavaliers, helped by their offensive line, have already rushed for over 150 yards in half of their games this season and have rushed for 145 yards or more in three straight games going into Saturday's matchup.

“They're going to run the ball, they're going to try to run the ball down our throat,” Francis said. “Coach Friedgen used to say when he was here, the truth, if Virginia can run the ball against you, they're going to beat you.”

The Terrapin defense has been solid this season, holding its opponents under 300 yards of total offense through six weeks of football. The defense, led by senior defensive linemen Francis and Vellano, and senior linebackers Hartsfield, Darin Drakeford and Kenneth Tate, is ranked seventh nationally in total defense, allowing 257.2 yards per game, and seventh nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 81 yards per game.

The Terps' defensive players feel this year's defensive unit is different from last year's unit. While the talent may not be too much different, most of the players said it is a change in their mentality that has transformed their defensive group into a nationally-ranked force.

“I feel like we had the players last year and we just weren't playing together very well,” Francis said. “I feel like this year, we're playing together with cohesion and we're coming together. It's like one big family out there. One of us makes a play we feel like everyone makes the play. Every play we go out there, we feel we can make the big play. When we have that kind of attitude, it's good for the whole defense and for your team in general.”

The Terrapin defense has been solid this season, holding its opponents under 300 yards of total offense through six weeks of football. The defense is ranked seventh nationally in total defense, allowing 257.2 yards per game, and seventh nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 81 yards per game.

The coaching staff also agrees that there is something different about this Terrapin defense that separates itself from other defenses in the recent past.

“One of the things I talked to the team about after the game in the locker room is that defensively we are playing with a lot of confidence,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. “We have some moxie. That is what we need to get on offense. We have to play with more confidence on offense. You get that by going out and practicing the right way. I think that is what the defense is doing. They're enjoying themselves and they are having fun. They are doing all of the things they are being asked to do and they are going out there and executing at a high level.”


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