The defense has been carrying the team through the first half of the season, ranking ninth in the nation and second in the ACC in total defense, giving up an average of 278.7 yards per game. The rushing offense, on the other hand, is ranked last in the ACC, having gained only 71.3 yards on the ground per game for a total of 428 yards through the first six games. Compare Maryland's 428 yards this season with Georgia Tech's 331.0 rushing yards per game, which leads the ACC.
"We know that have to continue to work on it and improve,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. “We can't do any more than what we are doing in terms of practice time. When it comes down to running the football, to me it is very basic. It's coming off the line of scrimmage, it's the offensive lineman blocking the guy against him until the whistle blows, and the running back getting the ball. Maybe we are going to be a team that has to throw the ball to set up a run. But we do have to run the football and we won't give up on it."
The Terps managed to come out of Charlottesville, Va. with a 27-20 win last week over the Virginia Cavaliers despite gaining a total of -2 yards off 29 attempts. Senior tight end Matt Furstenburg admitted that the team did not know they had rushed for negative yardage until after the game was over.
“I guess it's pretty to say you have negative and, not really, but we still won,” Furstenburg said. “Everyone's got to focus on the line, every single play, not just take a play off here and there. That screws up the run. Everyone needs to focus on that play that particular time.”
One of the reasons for the lack of production on the ground may be a result of a newer offensive line that sees freshmen on the starting unit and has not had as much experience playing together. Despite the poor rushing performance last Saturday, Edsall praised the offensive line's performance, saying there were good things that the team could take away from the performance.
“I thought that the guys up front held in there pretty well in terms of doing things that we needed to do,” Edsall said. “And we still ended up going down and scoring some points in the second half. It is just a consistency situation. With the offensive line when you have young guys rotating in and out, you don't get that kind of consistency that you need. I think that the offensive line needs to move forward and get better so we will keep drilling them as coaches and they will keep working on the practice field."
“The running game is something we're going to focus on every week,” Maryland senior offensive lineman Justin Gilbert said. “It's going to come. We see it. There are plays that are there. We see it on film. There are plays we leave out on the field. We just have to execute just a little bit better to get the running game going.”
Another reason for the lack of a consistent rushing attack may be because the Terps do not have a lead tailback every week that gets the majority of the tailback. While it is not uncommon to see teams operate with a running back by committee like Virginia with Perry Jones and Kevin Parks, the Terps have four tailbacks in Justus Pickett, Wes Brown, Brandon Ross and Albert Reid, who have each taken on the role of the lead back in at least one game this season.
"I'd like to have it where we'd have three guys,” Edsall said the week leading up to the game against Virginia. “Two that would carry the bulk of it and maybe a third as a specialist for those certain situations that come up in the game.”
The decision of which running back or backs will be featured on Saturday's game at home against the N.C. State Wolfpack has not yet been decided and will likely be a game time decision once again. The Terps will host N.C. State at home in College Park, Md. for their homecoming game. Kickoff will be at 3:30 at Byrd Stadium.