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Terps' OC Walt Bell takes blame for offense's play against Penn State

COLLEGE PARK — Offensive coordinator Walt Bell received his share of credit for Maryland's 4-0 start this season, particularly for the way the Terps had run the ball.

In the aftermath of a 38-14 loss last Saturday at Penn State, Bell also got a good deal of the blame. The interesting part is that most of it came from the 32-year-old assistant himself.

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After starting his Wednesday news conference by saying that "we played as as poor as we could possibly play" and half-joked that "we were working really, really together in tandem to find a way to play poorly," Bell stopped himself and started over.

"When I say that we didn't play very well … I just want everybody to understand that ultimately, that means that I didn't coach very well. I am responsible for how well or how poorly that we do," Bell said.  "If our kids do well, it's typically because they did a great job and that makes me look really good.

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"If our kids play poorly, it's because I didn't do a good job. We're in it together and they understand that, but I have to do a better job of coaching them. I have to make sure I do a better job of making them as prepared as they possibly can be to play, regardless of circumstance or environment. Obviously I did not get that done last week."

As the third quarter was nearing its midpoint Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium, Maryland appeared to be on the verge of getting back in the game against Penn State. Trailing 24-14 at halftime, a 44-yard run by Maryland freshman Lorenzo Harrison had put the ball at the Nittany Lions' 30. The Terps eventually had a fourth-and-2 at the 22.

Bell spoke about the two biggest miscues the offense made.

One was a first-down fumble by senior quarterback Perry Hills in the second quarter after the Terps, trailing 17-7, had blocked a punt deep in Penn State territory and Hills was hit from the blind side after going back to pass. Two players who were supposed to block left Hills unprotected.

"We had a lineman and a lead block run by him [the player they were supposed to block]," Bell said. "It's something that we work on all the time. We had [Damian] Prince in at guard and he hadn't taken a ton of reps there. We didn't the job done.

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"There are a gajillion calls you'd love to have back anytime you don't play well. Absolutely. There are 10 or 12 plays that you'd love to have back when you win a game. Absolutely. … Anytime I say we didn't do our jobs means that I didn't do my job getting those guys ready to get them blocked."

Growing up in a small town outside Nashville, Tenn., Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell used to spread out his football playing cards on the couch in the

The other play was a fourth-and-2 run from the Penn State 22-yard line late in the third quarter when freshman running back Jake Funk was tackled for a five-yard loss. At the time, Maryland was still trailing by the same score, 24-14, it was behind at halftime.

"Coach Durkin asked, 'Do you feel good about it?'" Bell said. "And the answer was 'Yes.' If we had to do it again, would I still go for it? Absolutely. Would we block it better? Absolutely. That's part of the maturation process of a football program. As we continue to get better, we'll have less and less issues like that."

In a season when Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has blamed his players and fired his defensive coordinator for his team's poor start, Bell's attitude reflects the message being sent by first-year coach DJ Durkin, who like his offensive coordinator took blame for his team's first loss.

Bell also understands that the attention he received after the first four games might have been a bit overblown.

"I've said the same thing every week, we've got a long way to go," Bell said. "I know after the first four weeks, everybody thought I was Bill Walsh and we had Montana and Elway and Jumbo Elliott and Willie Roaf out there playing.

"We've got a long way to go. We've been really consistent every week. The message has been the same every week, let's be the best us we can be. We're not there yet. Last week we just happened to be really far away from that."

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