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Terps down with Downs

October 21, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Believe it or not, Maryland's Chris Downs and Georgia Tech had one thing in common on Thursday.

Everything was downhill in the second half.

The difference, however, is that downhill was a good thing for Downs but the beginning of the end for the Yellow Jackets.

Halftime adjustments and offensive line help turned Maryland's senior tailback into a national star in the Terrapins' 34-10 over Georgia Tech, but it was Downs who readjusted his thinking to make himself the offensive catalyst and the Jackets' worst nightmare.

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"I was trying to get the ball and run downhill all game," said Downs after his 212-yard, three-touchdown game. "The coaches have been on me in practice. I was trying to go in and make too many cuts. Coach (Ralph Friedgen) said to stop tiptoeing and get it done."

Downs ran with more of a purpose on Thursday than in past games, aggressively hitting the holes instead of "tiptoeing" for the perfect move. After being held to 29 yards on seven carries in the first half, Downs suprised Georgia Tech by running for 109 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns in the third quarter alone.

"They came down and ran it right down our (tails)," Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta said. "We knew the plays. They just outhit us and outexecuted us."

Georgia Tech seemed to underestimate Downs, who is starting to make fans and critics forget his predecessor, Bruce Perry. Perry was the "tiptoeing" back of the 2001 season, who learned to run straight ahead and became the Atlantic Coast Conference's top offensive player.

Now it's Downs' turn.

"Chris Downs ... What can I tell you? He had a phenomenal game," Friedgen said.

Maryland failed to capitalize in the first half as small glitches - and Georgia Tech's defense - held it to two field goals. There was only 140 yards of offense, including 33 rushing. Freshman Josh Allen, who shined in the win over West Virginia, was held to five yards on six carries and looked to be the back the Yellow Jackets were trying to stop.

It changed immediately in the third quarter.

"When we came in at the half, Coach sat us down and told us what we had to get done," Downs said. "We had to execute."

Execution led to Maryland's rousing 44-17 win over WVU and it gave the Terps a 28-7 edge in Thursday's second half. Maryland took the second-half kickoff and marched 65 yards in five plays, all runs by Downs, to set the tone.

"We made some adjustments offensively and defensively and we told our kids that we knew they could play better," Friedgen said. "I think our offensive line stepped up."

Downs read his blocking and broke off runs of 21 and 23 yards to go along with scoring runs of 15, 1 and 64 yards, the latter on a perfectly executed sweep.

For Downs, going downhill was actually a good thing.

"He's a neat story," Friedgen said. "He could have given up ... but he turned himself into a good back. Tonight, he got interviewed by ESPN. I looked over and said 'I wonder if he thought a year ago that this would happen to him.'"

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