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Another controversy for Terps

September 23, 2002|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It seems quarterback controversies get most of the ink in football.

The Maryland Terrapins have had just such a battle simmering this season between Scott McBrien and Chris Kelley, although McBrien may have taken the upper hand with his 300-yard, three-touchdown performance in Saturday night's 45-3 win over Eastern Michigan at Byrd Stadium.

The more pressing question for the Terps now is who is going to be the feature running back?

As Maryland awaits the return of All-America tailback Bruce Perry, who has missed the first four games of the season with a groin injury, Josh Allen and Chris Downs are both making a case to be the man lining up behind McBrien in Perry's absence.

Allen, a true freshman from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, saw his first action with the Terrapins and made quite an impression.

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He ended the game as the Terrapins' leading rusher, carrying 10 times for 86 yards, including a 43-yard run that he nearly broke for a touchdown. Coach Ralph Friedgen did let Allen complete the job, calling his number on the next play for an 8-yard touchdown run.

"When he scored the touchdown, I told him, 'I'm so glad I took you,'" Friedgen said. "I have a lot of running backs, probably too many. But Josh came to our football camp and I was just blown away with the kid. I'll have to look at the tape, but in my mind right now, he's elevated himself."

It wasn't the first time Allen made an impression on Friedgen. Last year, after Eleanor Roosevelt lost in the Class 4A state final to Bowie - a game in which Allen saw little action because of an ankle sprain - Allen was quoted in a newspaper as saying, "I just didn't want to disappoint Coach Friedgen."

Friedgen said he called Allen after reading the story, telling Allen, "You could never disappoint me."

"The fact that he thinks that tells you where his heart is," Friedgen said. "I'm glad he's playing for us."

Downs has made the most of his opportunities as well, leading the team in touchdowns with four this season, including two in the first half Saturday. The senior also had a 61-yard scoring run called back last week against Florida State.

Downs insists that he hasn't looked at Perry's injury as a chance to audition. He says he plays the same whether he's on the field for one play or an entire series.

"I go out there every time and play my best," Downs said. "I just try to do what I can do to help the team."

With the return of Perry imminent - he was a possibility to play against Eastern Michigan, but all signs point to him seeing his first action of the year Saturday against Wofford - Downs said nothing will change among the Terrapins' stable of runners.

"I think as a group we have a real friendly competition," Downs said. "We push each other on the sideline. I think that's a big help for all of us. Any one of us can make the plays. We just have to do it when we're on the field."

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