Maryland's Friedgen, Cosh Drawing Fans' Ire

By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 3, 2007

As the final grueling minutes ticked off the clock during last week's 30-17 loss to Clemson, what was left of the Byrd Stadium crowd turned its attention toward the Maryland Terrapins sideline, where players and coaches were subjected to the boos and jeers of an increasingly frustrated fan base.

Coaches and players say they don't read or listen to the criticism heaped upon them on message boards, radio shows and chat rooms, but that day, the fans in the stands made sure their grievances were heard. There were pointed references to the Terrapins' poor tackling and the team's coordinators -- Coach Ralph Friedgen, who manages the offense, and defensive coordinator Chris Cosh.

"I just never heard it like that," senior running back Keon Lattimore said. "It was a low point."

Said junior defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre, "The worst scene I've seen since I've been here."

Said linebacker David Philistin, "It wasn't encouraging stuff."

Indeed, College Park has been a tough place lately, and the fan reaction was another example of just how badly the Terrapins need a victory today, when they play at North Carolina. Maryland (4-4, 1-3 ACC) has dropped back-to-back games, putting its bowl aspirations in serious jeopardy.

"It's a four-game season, and we need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and go out and do what we can to win football games," Friedgen said. "And this is a very important one."

But as the Terrapins have ventured deeper into desperation, the criticism of Friedgen and Cosh has grown.

For Friedgen, the heat has been directed toward what's been perceived as conservative play-calling. His decision to punt on fourth and one in the fourth quarter of a loss to Virginia evoked the most heated feeling. On the ensuing possession, the Cavaliers marched down the field for the winning score.

"I'm not concerned about statistics," said Friedgen, who defended his decision. "I'm going to do what I've got to do to win the football game."

But Lattimore said the problems stem from poor execution, not coaches' decision-making.

"If you're on the outside looking in, that's what a lot of people are questioning, the play-calling," Lattimore said. "We've been calling the same plays we've been calling. Unfortunately they're not being executed the same. But of course it's going to look like coaching."

Maryland's poor tackling has been particularly evident in the last two games, which has reignited the scrutiny on Cosh.

"I can't control that," Cosh said of the criticism. "I just worry about what I can control. I can control how I coach, how I react, how you teach your players."

Friedgen said he has not lost faith in Cosh. And again, players defended their coach. Inside linebacker Erin Henderson said Cosh has -- more often than not -- put players in position to succeed. But poor execution has stood in the way of results.

"The thing that people don't understand about defense is that it's not like offense, where if somebody messes up or somebody makes mistakes, it's glaring and everyone knows he made a mistake," said Henderson, who called the performance his worst of the season. "I made plenty of mistakes, I did a lot of things wrong, but it gets covered up on defense a lot of times."

Henderson said he left gaps too early at times last week, which left Clemson ballcarriers room to run. But because the mistake wasn't as visible, he said fans tend to fault Cosh.

"They just assume we were in a bad defense," Henderson said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company