Freshman mistakes haunting QB Jones

October 19, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Forget Momma. Ron Vanderlinden warned there would be days like this.

With all the clamor that went in pushing for Randall Jones to be the University of Maryland's starting quarterback, the Terrapins' head coach came off sounding like the Surgeon General's warning on the side of a pack of cigarettes.

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"Randall's a freshman, and anytime you play a freshman he will make great plays but he also makes mistakes," Vanderlinden said in the early weeks of the season.

On Saturday, Vanderlinden's prophecy became true, and unprofitable for the Terrapins.

The freshman played like a freshman as Jones continued to struggle with Maryland's passing package of the offense and then made two critical mistakes in the fourth quarter which sealed the Terps' 20-10 loss to Wake Forest.


Wake Forest's defense crowded the front line to eliminate the option of options from Jones, challenging him to throw. The Demon Deacons' intense focus on Jones left the door open for LaMont Jordan's big day as the only real bright spot for the Terps.

"I think at times we are getting pretty predictable (on offense)," Vanderlinden said. "We have a young quarterback. You can't go outside the lines too far and put him in situations he can't succeed in. But still, we have to be more creative on offense."

Vanderlinden was reluctant to start the Thomas Johnson graduate early in the season, claiming he was trying to vent some of the pressure from Jones.

But the face of Maryland's offense changes with Jones at the helm. He has shown a tendency to under throw passes and throw into coverage. Now that opponents have had time to study film of Jones and his tendencies, Clemson and Wake Forest have decided the best way to defend the young quarterback is to get the ball out of his hands.

"Randall did some good things and some bad things out there," Vanderlinden said. "The thing about him is that he makes good decisions out there with the ball, and we will continue to do that and get better as time goes."

But in the present, Jones hasn't looked completely confident in his ability.

He was 6-for-10 passing for 81 yards on Saturday, with all the completions coming in the second half. His option ability yielded minus-9 yards rushing. Jordan, on the other hand, threw for 68 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 132 more to carry the Terps' attack.

"In the second half, we rolled out more ... I like that more," Jones said. "I can't rush everything all at once (to improve). It's a big step from prep school to here. I thought I got better throwing the ball and audibling. I just had one mistake."

Actually two, but only one hurt. The first was on the opening drive of the second half. Jones had the Terps moving the ball until he made a pitch on an option that landed nowhere near tailback Harold Wesley. Wake recovered on its 28 to end the drive.

The killer came in the fourth quarter after Maryland fought back to within 17-7. Jones rolled to his left on a first down play at the Terps 28. He tried to force a pass to Jason Hatala, while throwing across his body and back into coverage. Delawn Parrish picked off the pass to set up the game-icing field goal.

"I know better than to do that," Jones said.

Maryland's defense, particularly the secondary, put Jones in the hole. Wake Forest riddled the Terps' with short passes, leading to 17 first-half points.

Vanderlinden vowed to remedy the situation.

"I'm getting more involved with the offense," Vanderlinden said. "There are more creative things we can use to move the ball. But Randall did not lose this game for us."

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