The Tar Heels were shut out last Saturday by Wake Forest, 31-0, in Groves Stadium, while Maryland was a 45-12 winner over Duke.
Maryland is on a five-game winning streak and hopes to add another ACC win to their season in Chapel Hill.
Maryland began the season with a question mark at quarterback. Junior Scott McBrien (6-0, 180) had little experience, but has recently been warming up to his task. Most recently, he completed 16 of 21 attempts for 264 yards against Duke.
McBrien has completed 57.5% of his passes on the year, throwing for 1433 yards, eight touchdowns, and five interceptions. McBrien's strong suit is that he spreads the ball around his receiving corps, preventing defenses from concentrating on one receiver.
Senior Scooter Monroe (6-2, 194) provides McBrien with a big, reliable receiver. Monroe has 22 receptions on the year, for 317 yards and a touchdown. Junior Jafar Williams has 17 catches for 310 yards and a touchdown. Junior Latrez Harrison (6-2, 195) and sophomore Steve Suter (5-9, 187) round out the receiving corps -- both have collected eleven catches and two touchdowns each.
Harrison had a great outing against Duke, with over 100 receiving yards and 31 yards rushing.
Speaking on Harrison's game against Duke, Friedgen said, "I thought Latrez Harrison's effort both in the passing and running game, whether he was carrying the ball, blocking or catching passes, was outstanding. It was truly an outstanding overall game for Latrez Harrison."
The strength of the Maryland offense, however, is in its rushing attack. Senior Chris Downs (5-8. 193) currently ranks third in the ACC, rushing for 82.5 yards per game, averaging an eye-popping 6.2 yards per carry. Downs has rushed for nine touchdowns this season. Junior Josh Allen (5-11, 194) backs up Downs.
Bruce Perry (5-9, 196), the 2001 ACC Offensive Player of the Year (1,242 yards), was beginning to make his way back from an abdominal injury suffered in the pre-season, but sprained his shoulder in the Duke game and is questionable to play this week.
The running game gets a lot of help from a huge and experienced offensive line. The offensive line averages over 6' 4" and 305 pounds.
Seniors Todd Wike (6-3, 303, LG) and Matt Crawford (6-6, 313, RT) anchor the offensive line. Wike is on the watch list for the Outland and Lombardi trophies.
Junior Lamar Bryant (6-3, 302) joins two sophomores, left tackle C.J. Brooks (6-6, 309) and center Kyle Schmidt (6-5, 298). They are joined by junior tight end Jeff Dugan (6-4, 261), who Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen calls one of the best blocking tight ends in the ACC. Dugan has five catches on the season.
Maryland ranks fourth in rushing offense in the ACC, averaging 169.75 yards per game, and is seventh in the league in total offense. Despite their low average in total offense, the Terps make the most of their opportunities. Maryland averages 32.8 points per game, third in the ACC. The Terrapin scoring average is helped by the second best mark in the ACC in red-zone offense.
On the Maryland offensive performance last week against Duke, Friedgen said, "I thought it was the best performance by our offense this season. Scott McBrien played very well, and our timing with our wide receivers is getting better. They made plays up the field."
The Maryland defense is experienced and talented, led by senior middle linebacker E.J. Henderson (6-2, 250). Henderson leads the team in tackles with 92 tackles in just eight games, with an amazing 62 solo hits. Henderson also has 10.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks. He was recently selected as a semi-finalist for the Lombardi Trophy, which goes to the top lineman or linebacker in Division 1-A. Henderson was one of only two linebackers selected as a semi-finalist.
Henderson was a consensus first-team All-American in 2001, the ACC Player of the Year, and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Junior Leon Joe (6-1, 223) plays weak side linebacker for the Terps, and is second on the team with 58 tackles, 38 solo hits, and two tackles for loss. Junior Leroy Ambush (6-1, 229) rounds out the linebacking corps, playing the strong side. Ambush has 19 tackles this season, playing in only five games due to injury.
Sophomore Randy Starks (6-4, 302) has been a pleasant surprise for the Terps. Starks has delivered seven tackles-for-loss and five sacks from his defensive tackle spot, and is third on the Terp defense in tackles with 53 stops. Another sophomore, Jamahl Cochran (6-0, 241) plays the "LEO" position for the Terps, a cross between a defensive lineman and a linebacker. Cochran has three tackles-for-loss and two sacks this season. Last week, true freshman Shawne Merriman (6-3, 240) started in the place of Cochran, who was injured. Merriman is the only true frosh to start for Maryland this season.
Defensive end Durrand Roundtree (6-3, 256) is the strongest member of the Maryland team. Senior nose tackle Williams Shine (6-4, 285) rounds out the defensive line for the Terps.
The Terrapin secondary is very opportunistic, led by free safety Madieu Williams (6-1, 193), who is second in the conference in interceptions with four picks on the season. Sophomore cornerback Domonique Foxworth (5-11, 175) has three interceptions. Two more juniors, strong safety Dennard Wilson (5-11, 186) and cornerback Curome Cox (6-1, 199), round out the Maryland secondary.
After the Duke game, Friedgen said of the Maryland defense, "Our defense has been playing very well all year long. Against Duke, it was a complete defensive effort. They played so well as a team."
Each week, North Carolina tries to play this year's game with next year's players on defense. At times last week, nine of the eleven players on defense were playing in their first season for the Tar Heels.
The results have been predictable. Especially in the front seven, the Tar Heels are plugging holes left by graduation and injuries with true freshman, red-shirt freshmen, and sophomores. Last week, the UNC coaching staff moved their starting fullback to defensive end to attempt to stop the bleeding on the defensive line.
The offense, when Darian Durant was healthy, was able at times to keep the Heels in games. The defense is what it is, and if the Tar Heels are to prevail on Saturday, it is up to the offense to carry the day.
That means that sophomore tailback Jacque Lewis (5-10, 184), who is expected to return to the starting lineup this week, and the offensive line need to have their best day of the season. True freshman Mahlon Carey (6-1, 210) has shown some flashes of ability as well, and the Heels will need a solid running game against the Terps.
That also means that junior quarterback C.J. Stephens (6-3, 216) is going to have to find a way to get the Heels into the end zone, something that did not happen last week against Wake Forest. North Carolina has a solid corps of wide receivers, led by senior Sam Aiken (6-2, 205), and Stephens need to understand that he doesn't have to do everything himself.
It would be more than can be reasonably expected for the Tar Heel defense to suddenly discover the ability to stop the run, but on the other hand, the Maryland offense is not among the most powerful faced by the Tar Heels this season. The Tar Heel defense has played well in spurts (first halves against N.C. State and Virginia), but will need a complete game in order for the Heels to win.
Winning at home against Maryland isn't an impossible task, but the Tar Heels will need a complete game in order to come away a winner.
Photos by Allsport