After examining film of Saturday's Northern Illinois game, Maryland coaches pinpointed a series of organizational lapses in the game's waning moments that Coach Ralph Friedgen summed up as "a mess."
Although No. 23 Maryland held off the Huskies 23-20, Friedgen felt the game was marred by miscues such as players lining up incorrectly on the sideline, poor communication regarding player injuries and, most troublesome, Maryland twice playing with only 10 men on the field during the game's final drive.
"In the three years we've been here, that's very rarely happened," Friedgen said. "I think it's more the youth of our team than anything else."
Defensive end Shawne Merriman realized the player shortage during the second play in which Maryland had 10 players on the field. Asked what he did to compensate, Merriman said, "I prayed."
Fortunately for the Terps, neither play resulted in a long gain for Northern Illinois.
The substitution problem occurred after Maryland punted the ball with 2 minutes 4 seconds remaining. Maryland sophomore Josh Wilson had cramped up but still played on special teams.
Wilson then left the game and didn't think he was supposed to return, Friedgen said, until a long yardage situation. What's more, Wilson was supposed to stay close to defensive coordinator Gary Blackney on the sideline but failed to do so, Friedgen said.
"Why wasn't Josh in the game?" Friedgen said. "I thought he was hurt, but he just had a cramp. He felt good enough to go in the game but he just didn't know he was supposed to be in the game."
Friedgen added, "People were screaming and yelling." Added Merriman, "Just mayhem. You hear the crowd and the coaches yelling at the top of their lungs. It's a wreck."
Safety Chris Kelley was one of the players yelling at the time. "I wasn't the only one screaming, but it was hard to deal with," Kelley said. "You're playing one short with the game on the line so it was a little upsetting. But we got it straightened out."
Friedgen said he would like to see improved communication between the team's trainers and doctors and coaches regarding which players are hurt so the staff can better adjust substitution patterns.
There were other on-field missteps while Maryland was in its dime package, which uses six defensive backs. Kelley, Friedgen said, was reacting to signals used for the nickel package, which uses five defensive backs. In other words, the senior blitzed when he wasn't supposed to.
"A couple of those blitzes I did call, though," Blackney said. "But it turned out okay."
The other problem occurred on the sideline. When a unit comes off the field, its players are expected to sit on the bench and listen to coaches make corrections. The unit's second team is expected to stand behind the bench and also hear the corrections. On Saturday, some second-team players instead were standing on the sideline watching the game.
"It's a multifaceted organizational thing that I've got to get corrected," Friedgen said.
Terrapins Notes: Friedgen acknowledged that the receiving and passing games are not where they need to be. . . .
Friedgen said his biggest concern with Temple on Saturday is its junior quarterback, Walter Washington, who runs the option and can bench press 475 pounds. . . .
Gerrick McPhearson played better than starter Reuben Haigler at cornerback , Friedgen said. . . .
Merriman said he is determined to prove he is among the best defensive ends in the nation this year. "Right now, it's a respect issue," he said. "I'm going out with the intent to gain respect every week and I won't stop until I get it." . . .
Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (defensive lineman) and place kicker Nick Novak (specialist) earned ACC honors this week.