College Park -- Every week, Maryland defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo preaches the importance of putting pressure on the quarterback.
"It doesn't always work," he said dryly, "obviously."
This week, Sollazzo's message had an added incentive - whoever is the first to record a sack against Rutgers will be the first to accomplish that feat against quarterback Mike Teel this season, and the first in six games.
"It's real important, especially against Rutgers," said senior defensive tackle Carlos Feliciano, who grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., about 30 minutes from the Rutgers campus, and was recruited heavily by the Scarlet Knights. "I read today he's only hit the ground once all season. That's amazing. We're definitely trying to get there. We're going to do whatever it takes to get there. We're going to play our hearts out and get as many hits on the quarterback as we can."
Maryland's defensive line has shown improvement this season, in part because the players are older and more experienced, and because they have become extremely good friends. The relationships and confidence have translated onto the field, but a more forceful pass rush will be needed in the Terps' 3:30 p.m. game against No. 10-ranked Rutgers (3-0) tomorrow if visiting Maryland (2-2) is going to slow the nation's No. 9 offense.
"I think Dre Moore is playing well," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Carlos Feliciano is playing with everything he's got. And then the improvement of Mack Frost. You put that with Jeremy Navarre, who is playing well, and we've got four quality defensive linemen.
"We still need to get more out of those guys, but it's not for lack of effort, I can tell you that."
The Terps are No. 2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in total defense, allowing 298.8 yards per game. Only three teams in the conference, though, have fewer than the Terps' six sacks through the first four games. There were two games during which Maryland didn't record one sack - against Florida International and Wake Forest.
"Some of that was attributed to not being in our rush lanes," said Frost, a backup defensive end considered by Friedgen to be one of the best pass rushers on the team. "This week, we put an emphasis on pass rush and staying in our rush lanes and getting to the quarterback.
"I think we match up pretty well against them. The type of offense they run is fit towards the type of defense we run. Basically, I think if we get our pad level low on defense, we'll be OK. They have a really good offensive line, but it all comes down to who's lowest."
Win or lose, the Maryland defensive line has stuck together since the spring. The players usually wind up in Feliciano's room (he has the flat-screen television and the Xbox). Sometimes, they'll just hang out in front of the local convenience store or on the rare occasion hit a campus party.
"We're probably the closest group on the team," Moore said. "We spend probably the most time together off the field, more so than anybody else on the team."
"I could not agree more," Sollazzo said. "My defensive line is a very, very close unit. I'm very proud of that. Bottom line is that we go to war, and if you go to war and you can't trust the man next to you, and if you're not close to that man, you immediately have problems. My guys, they play football together, they hang out together, they eat together. They're basically connected at the hip. It's not just two or three, it's basically all seven. They do a really good job of playing for one another."
Feliciano is fourth on the team in tackles with 19 and has 1.5 tackles for losses. Frost tackled West Virginia quarterback Pat White for a 6-yard loss when the Mountaineers had first-and-goal on the Terps' 2, and West Virginia failed to score on that drive. Moore has made three tackles for losses this season, and Navarre's 13 career tackles for losses lead Maryland's active players.
"I love my defensive line," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "They do a job of keeping me clean. They're also making a lot of plays this year. Last year our D-line held point and did their job but really weren't making a lot of plays."
Henderson said he spoke with Moore on Monday about having the confidence to go outside his area of responsibility if it's possible.
"I said, 'Hey, if you can make the play, go ahead and make it. I'm not going to be mad, nobody else is going to be mad,'" Henderson said. "So I think having that understanding and realizing it's OK for them to get that guy, now that they realize it and understand it, they're going out there and doing it."
NOTE -- Maryland starting left offensive tackle Scott Burley made it through practice yesterday for the first time this week and seems likely to play tomorrow, although how much remains questionable. "I don't know if he can hurt it any more," Friedgen said. "He has a bone bruise, and he has a soft tissue bruise. They're right in the same area. When the soft tissue gets hit, he has trouble locking out. We just hope he doesn't get hit on it again. That's the biggest thing."