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Maryland-Duke preview: A chance for redemption

By Rick Nelligan

Last year was the worst season in Terrapin football history. It was the only time Maryland has ever lost 10 games in a season, punctuated by losses against Middle Tennessee State at home and at Duke. Last week, the Terrapins redeemed themselves a bit for the loss against MTSU with a win against a similar Sun Belt Conference team in Florida International. This week, they get another chance to further distance themselves from last season’s debacle.

Duke, while having an exceptional athletic program, has arguably been the worst football program in the ACC over the last decade. A loss to the Blue Devils in ACC play is usually either considered a huge fluke, or a sign that your football program is in serious trouble. Last year, you could chalk it up to a little of both. Granted, Duke wasn’t the same team last year as in years past, actually being one win away from becoming bowl eligible. The game in Durham last year was played in such rainy conditions it easily could’ve been a men’s water polo contest in a huge swimming pool. In the end, the Blue Devils edged out the Terps 17-13 behind a huge day by former Blue Devil quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. But a loss to Duke is still not acceptable to me, and in order to distance ourselves from last year’s embarrassing season, we need a win against Duke at home this week.

Luckily, it is supposed to be clear and in the 60's around game time on Saturday, so we’ve got that going for us. Duke is coming here 1-3 overall, 0-1 in the ACC, fresh off three straight losses including a loss last week to Army. Redshirt freshman quarterback Danny O’Brien will be the likely starter again on Saturday. While performing admirably against Florida International last week, you can bet that Duke realizes he is still a freshman making his first start in an ACC game and will turn up the pressure. With a battered and bruised offensive line, the best way to protect O’Brien will be with a dynamic running game. Terp running backs Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett have been feast or famine to this point in the season, but both definitely have the talent to take over games. I absolutely expect them to do so against a porous Duke defense giving up an average of 229 yards per game on the ground this year through four games.

When Don Brown left the University of Massachusetts to take over as the defensive coordinator of the Terrapins, all we heard about was how he ran this aggressive defense with exotic blitzes from all over the place. Through a season and a half, we’ve yet to see that from the Terps, or at least see it be consistently successful. That’s exactly what the Terps need this week against Duke redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree. Renfree has had success this season, but has also thrown a total of seven interceptions over the last three games. Pressuring Renfree into making poor decisions should allow talented defensive backs Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism to have a field day.

No one associated with the Terps is happy with how things went last year, and quite frankly I’m sick of even thinking about it. A win against Duke this week will help to put it safely out of mind. It’s time to send a message that the Terps are not the team of last year and will no longer be a push over. This is the first ACC game of the year for the Terps, and will help set the tone for the rest of the ACC schedule. Look for a defensive touchdown to set the tone for the Terrapins and the offensive line to continue to gel and improve. My prediction: 34-21, Terps win heading into next week’s bye.

By Box Seats blogger  | October 1, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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