COLLEGE PARK, Md. — If you subscribe to the “bend, but don’t break philosophy,” the Maryland defense might be the Gumby of the ACC. Despite surrendering 399 yards of offense and 351 passing yards to Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, the Terps held the Blue Devils to three field goals and a single touchdown in their 21-16 victory on Saturday night.
Duke kicked field goals on their first three possessions in the first half and were threatening to score again late in the second quarter before safety Antwine Perez picked off a Renfree pass in the end zone, changing the momentum and leading to Maryland’s first touchdown on the ensuing possession.
Perez was also instrumental late in the fourth quarter with Duke driving to the Maryland 38-yard line. Faced with defending a fourth-and-15, Perez broke up a pass intended for Austin Kelly with 1:55 remaining, sealing the deal for the Terps as they improved to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in conference play.
“It’s only fitting that he broke up the last pass,” head coach Ralph Friedgen said after the game.
Not to be outdone by Perez, fellow safety Kenny Tate was in Renfree’s face throughout the game, picking up 1 1/2 sacks and narrowly missing two others. The 6-foot-4 safety showed far more aggression on blitzes than he previously had, according to Friedgen.
“That’s how [aggressive] he is in practice,” said Friedgen, who thought the junior safety was too cautious when blitzing in earlier games.
While the defense struggled in the first half and made it interesting at the end, Friedgen is noticing a major difference in this year’s team compared to the 2009 squad.
“We’re learning how to finish a game,” said Friedgen
Logan strikes again
For the second straight week, returner Tony Logan made a game-changing impact with an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the third quarter to put the Terps ahead for good at 14-9.
Logan returned a punt 85 yards for a score a week ago against Florida International and can now expect to receive the same treatment that Torrey Smith sees on kickoffs.
Plenty of kicks out of bounds.
Of course, Logan’s brilliant touchdown was soured by a senseless unsportsmanlike penalty after throwing the football against the brick facade beyond the end zone after his dynamic return. Friedgen would like to see his young players make better choices in terms of celebrating big plays.
“I love the emotion and the celebration, but do it on the sideline and do it as a team,” Friegen said.
The junior returner now has 415 punt-return yards in 15 attempts this season and is averaging 27.7 yards per return this season. His 415 return yards are already third on the single-season list despite having played just five games this season.
His 564 career punt return yards move him into fifth on the all-time list at Maryland.
O’Brien struggles in second start
Danny O’Brien received his second career start but struggled to live up to the success he enjoyed against Florida International. The redshirt freshman finished just 9 of 26 for 170 yards.
His 71-yard touchdown pass to Da’Rel Scott was a bigger product of the running back’s ability to break a few tackles and turn on his speed than the actual throw, but Friedgen credited O’Brien for managing the game well. Maryland did not turn it over against the Blue Devils defense.
“I think he’ll grow from this experience, and I think he’ll play better,” Friedgen said.
Speculation persisted the entire week over who would be the starting quarterback for the Terrapins against Duke, but it turned out to be a very simple decision with Jamarr Robinson not practicing until Thursday. Robinson, who started the first three games of the season before injuring his shoulder, was available if needed, but Friedgen preferred resting the junior with the Terps having a bye next weekend.
Pressed whether O’Brien had wrested the starting job from the more-experienced Robinson, Friedgen insisted both quarterbacks will continue to play. He did not, however, rule out O’Brien being the starter when Robinson is back to being 100 percent.
Linebacker Adrian Moten injured his ankle in the game and would have an x-ray following the game.
Tight end Dave Stinebaugh injured his knee and defensive back Eric Franklin went off with an injured hamstring in Saturday’s win. The extent of either injury was unknown following the game.
Odds & ends
Maryland picked up its 200th win at Byrd Stadium, having moved into the stadium in 1950. This year marks the 61st season for the Terps at Byrd. … The Terps are now 4-1 despite being outgained in four of the five games they have played (399-294 against Duke). … After struggling in the turnover department during a disastrous 2-10 season a year ago, the Terps enjoy a +8 turnover ratio after playing turnover-free football for the second straight week.