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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Needs to Establish Rush

Site: Byrd Stadium.

TV/radio: ABC will televise the game nationally. The Tar Heel Sports Network will provide live radio coverage; its flagship station is WCHL 1360 AM.

Records: North Carolina 0-1, season opener for Maryland.

Series: North Carolina leads 35-27-1.

Personnel update: North Carolina -- PK Jeff Reed (sprained ankle) is probable, S Billy Dee Greenwood (left shoulder sprain) is questionable. Maryland -- None reported.

Key Matchup: Against Oklahoma, North Carolina could not establish its running game, rushing for just 64 yards in 35 carries. Redshirt freshman Darian Durant, who played only a quarter, led the Tar Heels with 39 rushing yards.

Last year against Maryland, tailback Willie Parker had his breakout game of the season in UNC's 13-10 victory, gaining 158 yards on 21 carries to lead the Tar Heels to a 241-yard rushing day.

This year, the Terrapins' porous rush defense is older and wiser, and UNC's offensive line is young and fairly inexperienced beyond senior center Adam Metts. The Terps allowed 186.1 yards a game last year but should have a strong returning linebacking corps to back up a questionable defensive line. The d-line lost Kris Jenkins last year to graduation and have filled his spot with a converted end and nose tackle.

With the inexperience on both lines, nothing is certain, except that to be successful, the Tar Heels will need to exploit all the weaknesses in the defensive line that they can.

"We're going to expect (Maryland) to come out and play hard against the run, so we've got some good runs that we've put into the game play this week," Metts said. "We're working harder on our blocks, and, really, this is going out there and fulfilling assignments and beating the man in front of you.

"And it's just concentrating and confidence. That's what helps us establish the running game."

Establishing the ground attack is all-important, especially with tough defenses ahead on the schedule. With a successful running game, pressure will come off UNC quarterback Ronald Curry and give the Tar Heels' their best opportunity to come together as an offense.

"This could be a good chance to go out and play your best," Parker said. "I don't look at this game as a best of nothing, I just look at this game as a game we've got to play, a conference game we've got to win. It's going to be a tough game regardless of rushing statistics or what."

Final analysis/prediction: Parker's right -- it's going to be difficult either way. The advantages UNC has are marginal, and a bad day for North Carolina's defense could put the Tar Heels' in an 0-2 hole with Texas and Florida State looming in the next three weeks.

Both teams need a win to feel good about themselves with their new coaches. Maryland's Ralph Friedgen makes his coaching debut at his alma mater.

North Carolina has the edge that it's got one game under its belt - a prime-time, nationally televised event in which it rallied from a slaughter and turned it into a game. Although Maryland's certainly no Oklahoma, the Tar Heels must cut down on turnovers to give themselves a shot to win.

"In the first half, we were shooting ourselves in the foot," Metts said. "We were making mistakes up top and they were taking advantage of it.

"In the second half, we calmed down a little bit and we were playing more together. I think what we're going to try to use is the fact that we got this young line, this young offense in a sense, that these guys have more experience under neath their belts."

That experience is what North Carolina coach John Bunting is counting on for his team to pull out a win. If the Tar Heels lose, then as Bunting said, the Oklahoma game would be a waste.

UNC 17, Maryland 7.

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-- Compiled by Rachel Carter