"Biggest Task Of The Season"

Maryland head coach Randy Edsall says his "high-energy" defense is primed to tackle their biggest task of the season this weekend against No. 8 West Virginia.

Edsall, in his second season at UM, believes his defense is much improved from last season, and that coordinator Brian Stewart has brought an "aggressive scheme here and our players have picked it up well. He's a high-energy, detailed guy and I think our players have bought into it and enjoy the style of defense we are playing."

Maryland (2-1) has allowed just 19 points per game and ranks sixth in the NCAA in passing defense (124.3 ypg) and eighth in total defense (227.3 ypg). Part of that stems from playing William and Mary and a ball-control offense like Connecticut. But considering the non-conference slate isn't vastly different from a typical year, it's impressive to note the Terps are off to their best total yardage defensive start since 2004.

Much of that is because of Stewart, at one time rumored to be in-line as the next defensive coach at West Virginia. The former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator has switched Maryland to a 3-4 scheme, giving it multiple looks and blitz options, much like WVU coordinator Joe DeForest has done with the Mountaineers. That could be seen as a double-edged sword, Maryland have arguably better match-ups in defending the pass game, but also utilizing a look West Virginia often sees in practice.

When asked if he planned to use a spy – a player assigned to quarterback Geno Smith to limit his scrambling abilities – Edsall refused to comment on game strategy, but did acknowledge Smith could beat teams with "his arms and with his feet.

"You can tell that he has a very strong arm and knows where to go with the football. He throws on time. The thing I have been impressed with is he has gotten a lot stronger, he looks stronger and he is tougher to get down in the pocket. He is very settled into what they are asking them to do. You have to be very sound and very disciplined."

As anticipated, Edsall said he would have to use his offense as another aspect of defense. Maryland will try to control game tempo and clock by keeping their ball-control offense on the field for lengthy drives. That obviously serves a two-fold purpose: lessening overall game possessions, which in turn limits WVU's offense to fewer drives of their own. It's a sound strategy, but one that can, with a limited offense, get a Mountaineer foe behind the proverbial eight-ball quickly if the defense doesn't have success. If the Terrapins get behind by a few scores, the temptation is to increasingly throw, and it's that one-dimensional style that all defenses crave.

"We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us. If you've be ever played in Morgantown, it's a very difficult place to play," Edsall said. "It's very passionate and very loud. They are very talented, a top 10 team in country. … Your offense, it has to be a part of it, you possess the ball and use the most time you can to be able to score. It's a combination. Try to make them go the long way. They have been very good, 55 points per game, 600 yards of offense, so it's a tremendous challenge.

"I've had to compete against West Virginia for many, many years. West Virginia is always good, and this is another one of their very good teams. I have respect for them and their personnel. I won't get into specifics of our game plan, but there's things that you can do."


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