ACC: Marko Mitchell

Maryland's defense faces stiff challenge with interim coordinator

December, 29, 2008
12/29/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

In early December, Maryland linebacker Dave Philistin was one of the few players who got a phone call from his position coach, former defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, informing Philistin of his decision to take a job at Kansas State.

What Philistin didn't realize after he hung up the phone was that Cosh wouldn't coach the Terps in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl. Cosh left so abruptly that not even his interim replacement, assistant Al Seamonson, got a chance to talk to him about it.

"It's huge," Philistin said. "What surprised me was the timing of it. I thought he was going to do the bowl game and then afterwards part ways. It's pretty devastating. You don't know what to think when you go to work the next day, but everything happens for a reason.

"What you lose is a sense of guidance almost. This guy has been my mentor for the past two seasons as an inside linebacker. It's like where do I go now? Especially for a bowl game. Coach Cosh, he knows his stuff. He preps us well as far as the game plan and all that."

Of all the opponents Maryland needs to be at its sharpest on defense for this season, Nevada would be at the top of the list. The Wolf Pack boast a 2,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver. Oh, and the quarterback rushed for more than 1,000 yards, too.

"It's crazy," Philistin said. "I haven't heard anything about them except when I watch film, but the way they play, you would think you hear more about them."

The Wolf Pack have quietly put together one of the most productive offenses in the country, as Nevada is No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense, fifth in total offense, and 12th in scoring offense. They're among the best at earning first downs and controlling the clock. 

"They put up a lot of yards," Navarre said. "They're a big-play offense. A lot of plays we watched the quarterback was going for 60 yards and the running back was going for 60 yards. The quarterback, he's 6-6, he's not real heavy but he runs real fast. He's got real long legs. He's not going to juke you or anything, but once he gets in stride he's gone."

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 2,479 yards with 19 touchdown and five interceptions during the regular season. The sophomore also rushed for 1,115 yards with 16 rushing touchdowns, ranking 12th in the nation in total offense (299.5 ypg).

The Terps will also have to worry about sophomore running back Vai Taua, who had 1,420 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 213 carries. He ranks ninth in the nation in rushing. Senior wide receiver Marko Mitchell is Kaepernick's favorite target, having recorded 56 receptions for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season.

Still, it was only good enough to finish in a tie for second place in the Western Athletic Conference.

Maryland's defense isn't bad -- they've only allowed more than 30 points twice this season -- but it was as inconsistent as the entire team.

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