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Downs gives Terps offense some upside

September 30, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Chris Downs is having trouble figuring it all out.

From where he sits, it's uncomfortable. It's probably because of all the bright camera lights in his eyes and the microphones and tape recorders waving in his face.

After all, all he does is run with the football for the University of Maryland football team.

"I don't like all this attention," Downs said Saturday. "It's not for me."

For now, he has to get used to it. People are heaping all that attention on him because of the way he does run the football for the University of Maryland.

Downs finished with 147 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to help lead the Terrapins to a 37-8 victory over Wofford at Byrd Stadium. The senior was clearly the most consistent part of Maryland's offense against a Terrier team which has become known for staunch defense.

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The advance billing didn't stop Downs from continuing his unexpected season which has storybook written all over it. The senior was pressed into starting duty since Bruce Perry, reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year, has been unable to play in the first five games of the season because of an abdominal strain followed by a groin tear.

Perry was supposed to play against Wofford, but coach Ralph Friedgen kept him out of the lineup for precautionary reasons after he experienced some soreness in his legs.

Downs continued to respond in the starter's role.

"The guy has waited for his opportunity and has made the most of it," Friedgen said. "Every game he comes in, he's very consistent and doesn't turn the ball over. He's running hard and he has a burst. It's an enjoyment for a coach to see a kid who has been in your program for such a long time and not got a lot of playing time and then he comes in and excels."

Downs, who has rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns this season, left his imprint on the game early. He ripped off a 44-yard gain on his second carry of the game to set up Maryland's first field goal en route to 120 yards in the first half, but took little credit for it.

"I just went back to the huddle and I told myself 'I had a good run, but it's over.'" Downs said. "I can't stop and turn around. I have to keep going."

Despite becoming the first Maryland runner to top 100 yards since quarterback Shuan Hill rolled up 105 yards against Duke on Oct. 21, 2001, Downs remained reluctant to bask in the glow of glory.

"The big guys in front of me do it all," said Downs, all wide eyed with a deer-in-the-headlights look about him. "If I would have sat back and thought about (the 100-yard first half), ... that probably would have messed up my focus out there."

Downs sits with a big grin on his face covering the disbelief of his notoriety and stammers slightly from nervousness as he gets grilled with questions. He remains an uneasy hero for the 3-2 Terps.

"I'm a person who feels good about going out each day and working hard to do my best," Downs said. "I can't say much about it."

Downs remains positive the spotlight will fade once Perry returns and he will gladly turn the "star" moniker over to him, especially since Downs doesn't think he's doing anything special.

"We know how talented he is and we are anticipating his return," Downs said. "He's going to make us better. I did OK, but I could have been better. I'm going to go back and watch the films and watch myself for ball security and all that. I could have done better with my reads and cuts. I did all right, but I could have done better."

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