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Raiders Running Back Is Not Expected to Play vs. Maryland

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Middle Tennessee senior running back Phillip Tanner is not expected to play against Maryland on Saturday.

The team leader injured his right knee on the second play of the third quarter in Middle Tennessee's 31-14 victory over Memphis on Saturday and did not return. After the game, Tanner was in a straight-leg brace and on crutches, according to a report.

"When they put you in a brace, I would be very surprised if he could play for a few weeks," Middle Tennessee Coach Rick Stockstill told the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, Tenn. "So I would say he would be out for a while."

Expect backup D.D. Kyles, who rushed for 32 yards on five carries against Memphis, to be the Blue Raiders' primary option at running back against the Terrapins.

Fourth-Down Spark

One of the most important plays in Maryland's victory over James Madison occurred with 5 minutes 46 seconds remaining, when the Terrapins faced a third and four from the James Madison 47.

Trailing 35-28, Maryland did not want to give the ball back to the Dukes, who could milk the clock and potentially put the game out of reach. So on third down, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen told offensive coordinator James Franklin he had two downs to get the first down.

After an incomplete pass on third down, the call was to go back to a play that had worked earlier in the game. Quarterback Chris Turner knew the Dukes did a good job at closing up the middle of the field, so the plan was to get the ball to wide receiver Ronnie Tyler in space.

"I tried to get the ball out in front for him," Turner said. "And when Ronnie has a little bit of space, he is going to make people miss."

Tyler's 20-yard completion gave the Terrapins new life and set the stage for the next play, a 27-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Adrian Cannon that tied the score at 35.

"At that point of the game," Turner said of the fourth-down conversion, "it was a big play."

Screen-Pass Success

Time after time Saturday, Turner took the snap and quickly fired a pass right or left for a screen pass to a wide receiver that was successful more often than not.

In fact, on Maryland's opening possession alone, a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown-scoring drive, Turner threw five wide receiver screens, three to Torrey Smith and two to Cannon.

Franklin said one reason for the play was to take advantage of what he called "free access" on the outside because the Dukes often loaded the box to try to take away the run. The other reason was to compensate for the offensive line's inability to protect Turner for a long period of time.

"Get the ball out fast and into the hands of our playmakers in space," Franklin said. "That what I was basically trying to do, create a space game and get the ball out there fast."

Once it started working, there was no reason to go away from it.

"It's like a pitcher who's got a great curve," Franklin said. "They can't hit the curve, so keep throwing it until they show that they can hit it." . . .

The Rutgers-Maryland game at Byrd Stadium on Sept. 26 will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN360.

Staff writer Steve Yanda contributed to this report.

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