Terps notebook: Notre Dame provides opportunity

Terps notebook: Notre Dame provides opportunity
November 11, 2011, 7:32 pm
Share This Post

By Benjamin Standig
CSNwashington.comThere is no sugar coating the current status of the Maryland's football program, with itssour tasting upside-down record and having been officiallyeliminated fromthe upcoming bowl season. Five-game losing streaks tend to have that effect. However the opportunity for a positive momentum-building push heading into next season comes this weekend.The final three-game closing stretch starts with Saturdays nationally televised tilt at FedEx Field, Maryland's second all-time meeting with the behemoth of all football program behemoths, Notre Dame. Any time you play Notre Dame I think is a great opportunity, especially in the environment that we're going to be in at an NFL stadium, said quarterback C.J. Brown, who is not expected to know until before kickoff whether he or Danny O'Brien will start. We haven't played Notre Dame in a while, and this being my first time being able to go against that type of caliber opponent will be a great experience.The ghosts of Fighting Irish past always hover over the SouthBendprogram, but the current offensive unit is frightening opposing defenses all on its own. Sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees (17 touchdown passes this season) and game-breaking wide receiver Michael Floyd (68-832-6) headline a varied attack that has scored 30 or more points in five of its nine games, twice topping the half-century mark. Rees and Floyd, a likely NFL first-round pick, have hooked up for scores in the three of the Irishs last four games. Considering the Terps defensive woes allowing 447 yards per game - this is hardly the ideal moment to face such a potent attack. Considering the Terps collective struggles, this is hardly the right time to have a significant number of eyes focusing on the on-field product, but that is what comes with scheduling the Fighting Irish. "We just have to step it up kind of like we did against Miami in beginning of the year," said defensive tackle Joe Vellano, one of the stalwarts on a unit forced to play several freshmen due to injuries. "Just step up and make plays. Everyone's going to be watching these younger kids who haven't been playing, our whole team in general." Everyone will also witness the Terps returningto the "Pride" uniforms that became the talk of college football during the win over the Hurricanes.So with the postseason now a 2012 goal andconsidering the storied opponent and stepped up locale, could Saturdays gameserve as the Terps de facto bowl game?You could definitely look at it like that," said Vellano, who has recorded double-digit tackles in four of the lastfive games."Its definitely a bigger setting than the average game. Its tough not going to a bowl game, but you have to finish strong, Vellano said.Parsing EdsallLike all head coaches, especially those of prominent programs, Randy Edsalls choice of words receives attention. When the team is struggling for a win, for anything positive momentum and youre a first-year coach, attention turns to scrutiny. That was the case this week following Marylands loss to Virginia.During Sundays conference call, the discussion veered toward the future, how Edsall moves the program going forward after a down season."I've been through this before," Edsall said. "I know how to handle it. I know what to do. There is no panicIt's Connecticut all over again, 13 years ago. Jacksonville Jaguars all over again. It's going to Boston College when we were there. I've been through all of this. This isn't earth shattering. It doesn't have me discouraged. I have a vision of what we're going to do and I know we're doing things the right way."Critical inspection of his analogy ensued. Connecticut was transitioning into becoming a Division-I program when Edsall took over as head coach. The Jaguars were an NFL expansion team and the Eagles had suffered several losing seasons. The team Edsall inherited at College Park was coming off a winning season capped by a bowl victory with many of the key contributors returning. With Edsall was asked for a clarification at Tuesdays press conference."The problem is that sometimes my quotes can get taken out of context, Edsall said. What I was saying there was going in to Connecticut there was a team that was 10-2 and coming off going to the D1-AA playoffs for the first time in school history. Expectations were very high with what we were going to do. There were some variables there though. They had lost 25 guys who were very good players. The first year didn't go so well and that is what I was saying. I was comparing going in there and having high expectations and coming in here, not the state of the programs. I came in installed my program, stayed consistent and good things happened." Turnover BattleOn the surface, Marylands low-ranked defense figures to be outmatched, but there is one chink in Notre Dame's armor which coincides with Terps opportunistic strength.The Terps have racked up 23 turnovers second in the ACC - and the teams turnover margin (0.78) ranks 13th nationally. The Irish have not been nearly as lucky with the possession miscues; no FBS team has a worse turnover margin (-1.33).Balls on the ground specifically favor the Terps, who have come up with 13 fumbles (t-2nd FBS). The Irish have coughed the ball up 18 times, losing 11 of them.What you need to know...The Combatants: Maryland (2-7) vs. Notre Dame (6-3)When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at FedEx FieldHistory: Notre Dame won the only previous meeting, a 22-0 triumph at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Coaches: Randy Edsall, 1st year at Maryland; Brian Kelly, 2nd year at Notre DamePlayers to watch, Maryland: Danny OBrien, QB, So.; C.J. Brown, QB, So.; Davin Meggett, RB, Sr.; Joe Vellano, DT, So.Players to watch, Notre Dame: Tommy Rees, QB, So.; Michael Floyd, WR, Sr.; Tommy Rees, RB, So.; Manti Teo, ILB, Jr. Notes... OBrien needs 46 passing yards to become the ninth QB in Maryland history to reach 4,000 yards Rees has 29 touchdown passes in 18 games and needs two more to tie former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann for sixth place on Notre Dames all-time listJustin Gilbert, the Terps projected left tackle entering spring practice, will make his first start of the season at right guard following his return from a knee injury. The 300-lb junior entered the lineup as reserve against VirginiaThe Irishs veteran offensive line has allowed only five sacks this season