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Terps find offense in time for Yellow Jackets

October 17, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland's last football game was shown on ESPN2, but as far as the Terrapins are concerned, it should have been simulcast on the Discovery Channel.

Until Oct. 5's matchup with West Virginia, offense was a bit of a mystery for the Terps. They have won games convincingly against a number of lesser teams, but it was other factors which allowed Maryland to score convincing wins.

Face it, Maryland had outscored its last three opponents - Eastern Michigan, Wofford and WVU - by a combined score of 130-28. Those numbers give much credence to the defense and special teams.

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But in the WVU game, quarterback Scott McBrien and the rest of the offense learned something. Long drives are important and needed to control football games, but the perfect play can devastate an opponent.

McBrien engineered three quick-hitting touchdowns against the Mountaineers, leading the Terps to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter as Maryland dominated WVU, 48-17.

"(That) was a huge win," McBrien said. "It gave confidence to the whole team. It showed that if we execute, we can beat the big teams. It made us want to come back and prepare to execute for the next game."

Usually, teams strive for one or two big plays to turn the tide of a game in its favor. But Maryland did more than that, scoring on runs of 21 yards by McBrien and 70 yards by Josh Allen followed by a 45-yard catch by Jafar Williams.

In a seven-play span, Maryland was up by three touchdowns and not in any hurry to look back.

The game started out as one that Maryland was looking to control the ball to keep it away from WVU's nation-leading running game. It ended up becoming a lesson in how potent the Terrapin offense can be if it is run correctly.

"I wasn't expecting us to jump out ahead like that so early. But once it happened, I was happy to get the momentum and went with it. Coach (Ralph Friedgen) brought that up in practice," McBrien said. "He said 'See what you can do if you execute. When you execute, you get big plays.'"

The performance has given the 2002 Maryland offense an identity of its own.

Last season, the Terps' offense started with the running of tailback Bruce Perry, one of the major factors in guiding Maryland to a 10-2 record and its first ACC title in 16 years. He was to return this season as the top offensive player in the league and an first-team All-American.

But Perry has yet to play a down this season because of abdomen and groin injuries and doesn't look to be playing anytime soon. His absence has opened the door for senior Chris Downs and true freshman Allen to establish themselves behind McBrien.

"The running game is very important to us. We need it to be able to execute. If the backs keep the offense going, it gives us confidence," McBrien said. "We need to go out Thursday and prove we can play in front of a national audience."

If there is a problem with Maryland's suddenly explosive style, it comes from the Terps still needing to prove they can hold the ball and control it for a long period of time to eat the clock.

Against WVU, five of Maryland's six scoring drives - not counting Steve Suter's first-quarter punt return for the Terps' fourth TD-were completed in under four minutes. The other scores came on an 11-play, 54-yard drive over 4:42, resulting in a 1-yard score by Allen and a 11-play, 60-yard march in 5:53 for a 37-yard field goal by Nick Novak.

Maryland needs more long drives tonight against Georgia Tech, considering the Terps pulled out a 20-17 win in overtime last year. It is the style of game which might be more the norm for the Terps as they close the season with seven straight ACC games.

"From here on out, every game is important and since it is the ACC, it is even more important," Friedgen said. "It's not do-or-die but it is a feather in your cap if you win. If you get this one, it sets up a lot of other things."

Two of the things it would set up for the Terps are a reputation as an effective offense and a contender to defend their ACC title. McBrien will settle for proof positive that the Terps' offense has arrived.

I think (the way we moved the ball against WVU helped us) because if we can move the ball and keep possession against Georgia Tech, it means we can do it against most anyone," he said.

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