COLLEGE PARK -- Was last week the beginning of the end for the run-and-shoot?
Maryland coach Mark Duffner isn't telling what new wrinkles he's added for Saturday's noon Atlantic Coast Conference game against Virginia, but he'd have to install the single wing to top the surprise he threw at North Carolina State. The Terps' used the I-formation approximately 40 percent of the time in the 30-13 win that clinched only the second regular-season winning record for the program in a decade.
The run-and-shoot, which employs four receivers and one back, has been Maryland's primary attack in Duffner's four seasons. There was wholesale experimentation with other formations in spring 1994, but when the offense sputtered midway through last season, the Terps returned exclusively to the run-and-shoot.
The nuances of that offense were again harder to grasp during a four-game scoring slump in which the Terps totaled 12 points and went 1-3. In an acknowledgment of Maryland's difficulties running the ball, Duffner installed the I and several hundred pounds more of blockers, but it wasn't easy.
"You have to be careful not to do so many things," Duffner said. "I know it was a little contradiction in some respects. We said we were going to simplify, then we put in a whole new offense."
Maryland has recruited heavily at receiver and less so at running back, and to pull off the I-formation, the Terps turned reserve defensive lineman Mario Chavez into a fullback, moved redshirt freshman John Feugill from tackle to tight end and even spotted receiver Jermaine Lewis at tailback.
The off-season could bring more juggling of personnel, and will bring further evaluation of the offensive scheme.
Besides being unable to generate a consistent ground attack, run-and-shoot appears to affect the Terps' rushing defense. Duffner said he likes to have his first offense practice against the first defense. With the emphasis the run-and-shoot places on the pass, is it a coincidence that Maryland ranks 15th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, but only 50th in rushing defense?
Whatever the Terps try against Virginia, they won't have the element of surprise as they did against N.C. State. The Cavaliers used a three-man front to slow Florida State's "Fast Break" offense in their 33-28 win over the Seminoles, and coach George Welsh said his team is ready for Maryland's diversity.
"I'd rather be in this position than what N.C. State had to deal with," Welsh said. "There is some carry over from Florida State to Maryland. The schemes are different, but some of the concepts are the same."
One of the objectives of the new offensive look was to get the ball more often to Lewis. Against N.C. State, he moved to eighth on Maryland's career scoring list with the first four-touchdown game by a Terp since 1984.
Most of Lewis' six carries at N.C. State came on sweeps while he was at tailback, but he also had 11 catches, giving him 56 on the season and 183 for his career, six shy of the Atlantic Coast Conference record.
"Lewis is as dangerous as anyone we've played in years," Welsh said.
Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for the Virginia game. . . . Terry Harvey still could have an effect on Maryland's bowl chances. The N.C. State quarterback didn't play against the Terps because of a neck injury, but he'll start Saturday against Georgia Tech, which needs to win its remaining games to qualify for a bowl. . . . Sophomore Eric Ogbogu is second in the ACC in
tackles for loss (12 for 61 yards).