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WVU-UM tailback don't block out responsibilities

September 19, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Numbers do little justice in measuring the effectiveness of running backs Amos Zereoue and LaMont Jordan.

The figure "2,701" proves Zereoue has the yardage to be West Virginia University's all-time leading rusher, all the more reason for the junior to wear his "Famous Amos" moniker proudly.

Then there's Jordan and his "689," the total yards he accumulated as a freshman back for Maryland to make him the focal point of the future for the rebuilding Terrapins.

Numbers are great, but neither begin to show how important Zereoue and Jordan are to their teams. When they're playing, WVU and Maryland fans take them for granted.

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When they aren't being used, that's when the pair's true worth is measured. If Zereoue and Jordan aren't getting the ball, the Mountaineers and Terps aren't moving.

That in itself may be the most compelling matchup of the game today at 6 p.m. when the University of Maryland travels to meet No. 19-ranked WVU at Mountaineer Field. Although oddsmakers favor the Mountaineers by 21 points, just how Zereoue and Jordan run against the opposing defense may determine how close the game will be.

Zereoue is an All-American candidate and has been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy hopeful. He ran for only 77 yards in the season-opening loss to No. 1-rated Ohio State.

But the junior had 80 yards in the first half as WVU trailed 20-10 at halftime. Ohio State came out in the second half and eliminated Zereoue from the game with another touchdown. He had a minus-3 yards on seven carries in the final 30 minutes.

"Against Ohio State, Amos played the best game since he's been here without the ball," WVU coach Don Nehlen said. "His blocking was outstanding and by far was the best job he has ever done. He's a tremendous football player. We have to put the ball in his hands more."

Ohio State kept the ball from Zereoue and there was zero way for WVU to pull the upset. For Maryland, Jordan is a different story.

The Terps won their first game of the season, a 23-15 struggle over James Madison, an NCAA Division I-AA team. Jordan was sidelined for the opener, still recovering from a foot injury he sustained in fall practice.

It showed in the Terps' rushing game - 42 carries, 42 yards.

But Jordan made the trip to Virginia last weekend and subtlely had a huge impact on the Terps' fortunes. He rushed officially for 88 yards, minus a 29-yard touchdown run called back on a penalty.

"I thought he ran well," Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden said. "He ran hard. He ran like we were accustomed to seeing him run. This is the first game of this season for him and for him to touch the ball 26 times is a pretty good effort on a hot day. I was encouraged by what he did. He has the chance to become a special player."

What Jordan did was open up Maryland's offense, giving Virginia more to worry about. The Cavaliers, who held Auburn to 18 yards running the week before, had to cope with Maryland's sudden burst of diversity.

Jordan got his 88 yards, but his prescence allowed fullback Matt Kalapinski to ramble for 87 yards and backup tailback Harold Westley added 55 yards as Maryland's backfield accounted for 210 yards.

"I saw Jordan run last year and I liked him then," Nehlen said. "I was surprised how well Maryland moved the ball against Virginia."

It also shows Zereoue's importance to WVU's attack.

''If we just execute in the second half like we did in the first half ... but when you get behind 27-10, you start to say, 'How many times is five yards going to help?''' Nehlen said. ''I agree we should have got the ball in Amos' hands more.''

The more Amos Zereoue and La-Mont Jordan touch the ball, the more chance something big will happen.

Past history seems to bear that out ... especially when the two super backs don't touch the ball.

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