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October 16, 2012
Maryland's defense undergoes drastic changes
NC State offensive coordinator Dana Bible doesn't expect to see anything close to the defense that Maryland played last year against the Wolfpack.
The schemes might be the same or similar, but the Terrapins haven't resembled anything like the defense that surrendered 35 points in the fourth quarter of NC State's miraculous 56-41 come from behind victory in the regular season finale, which helped the Wolfpack become bowl eligible.
Maryland allowed 34.2 points and 457.2 yards per game in 2011 during an injury marred 2-10 season. The memory of that porous defense is gone under new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart.
Maryland's ranked third in the ACC through six games in allowing 20.3 points per game, just slightly better than NC State's defense (20.5). The Terrapins are also second in the league in allowing 278.7 yards per game, tied for first with 18 sacks and are particularly stingy in run defense at 95.5.
NC State plays at Maryland at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, with both teams 4-2 overall.
"Teams reinvent themselves each year," Bible said. "There is very little carry over and you stand on your merits each year and each week.
"[College Park, Md.] is a fun place to play and the fans get into it. If you are successful any time on the road in this conference, but if you are successful up there, that is really quite a win."
Bible hasn't heard any talk from his players about last year's emotional win, and he considers that a positive. NC State fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Glennon and the offense simply aren't playing the same Maryland defense.
"That is old news," Bible said. "There is nothing about last year that carries over to this year."
Maryland is also second in pass defense in the ACC, but are 11th with just three interceptions, though one of which helped set up a touchdown in last week's 27-20 win at Virginia.
Maryland's front seven features four players in the top 15 in the ACC in sacks, led by senior outside linebacker Darin Drakeford, who has 4.5.
"It's not just one guy, but he's one of the players they feature in the pass rush," Bible said. "You have to know where he is."
Maryland moved star senior defensive tackle Joe Vellano out to defensive end in its 3-4, and he leads the league with 11 tackles for loss, to go along with 37 tackles and three sacks.
"I like the way he plays," Bible said. "He's a tough guy. He's a high motor guy, and you can tell he really enjoys playing this game. He leaves it on the field."
The Terrapins version of a 3-4 defense features three defensive linemen all over 285 pounds, which is relatively rare in college football. Vellano is the "smallest" at 6-2 and 285.
"They are doing a good job, and are a physical powerful group," Bible said. "They know their roles and know their assignments. It's a team concept and give you enough variables to keep you on your toes.
"Their secondary is versatile and play a lot of different coverage. They do a nice job of reading patterns and reading routes."
West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin caught three touchdown passes from Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Geno Smith in a 31-21 victory over the Terrapins on Sept. 22. The Mountaineers also had a defensive touchdown in the game. Smith finished going 30 of 43 for 338 yards, three scores and zero interceptions, but WVU managed just 25 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Virginia struggled through the air last week, but former Mount Ulla (N.C.) West Rowan High star running back Kevin Parks rushed for 129 yards on 17 carries for the Cavaliers.
Connecticut and Virginia are the lone teams that have rushed for over 105 yards against Maryland. Part of the success is an increase of speed on defense.
"The thing that jumps out is that you can each week their improvement," Bible said. "You see a group now playing at confidence. They are athletic, and any time you can bring a safety [senior Kenny Tate] that can come down and play down in the box and be physical enough and have that kind of athleticism to the position. That's a benefit to the defense."
NC State edged UConn 10-7 on the road Sept. 8. Maryland coach Randy Edsall has his Terrapins looking similar to what he used to do at Connecticut.
"Randy always has come from a defensive background," Bible said. "You knew that when you play one of his teams, you were going to go against a defense that was prepared and put together well. You had your hands full. In year two, that hasn't changed [at Maryland]."
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