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Perry's big plays put spark in Terps, crowd

October 12, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A three-minute span in the third quarter of Maryland's 33-20 win over Duke on Saturday pretty accurately summed up the last two years of Bruce Perry's football life.

Perry made two big plays early in the second half, coaxing a crowd of 50,084 into the prolonged shouting of his name that rang through Byrd Stadium in 2001.

"Bruuuuuce!"

But after fumbling on a middle running play, Perry let loose a little frustration.

That's been Perry's luck the last two years. Just when it seems all is going right, something happens to make it all seem wrong again.

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Injuries have slowed Perry the last two seasons after his breakout sophomore season when he was the Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

He's struggled at times this year to get untracked, but he often shows flashes of the running back that led the Terrapins to the ACC title and a berth in the Orange Bowl in 2001.

He showed some of his old flash and bursts of speed early in the third quarter, quickly finding his hole and breaking two tackles on his way to an 18-yard touchdown run that gave the Terrapins a 20-0 lead.

"I just saw the hole and tried to hit it as hard as I could," Perry said.

Running the ball against the Blue Devils wasn't exactly easy, even though it appeared a mismatch on paper. Duke came in second to last in the league in rushing defense, while the Terrapins were ranked second in rushing offense.

The Blue Devils were committed to shutting down Perry and the Maryland running game, putting eight and nine defenders on the line for much of the game.

That put the game in the hands of quarterback Scott McBrien, who hit Perry on a screen pass on the Terps' next drive. Perry again showed a burst of speed as he scampered down the Maryland sideline for a 28-yard gain.

"Scotty got the ball moving and made a nice pass in the flat," Perry said. "They were jamming up the box to stop the run, so we had to improvise and do it in other ways."

On the next play, Perry was hit almost immediately after taking a handoff. The ball popped in the air and was recovered by Duke.

Perry and McBrien had a heated exchange on the field after the play and Perry headed for the phone to talk to the coaches looking down on the field.

Cooler heads prevailed on the sideline, where Perry and McBrien talked again and appeared to clear up any hard feelings over the botched play.

And all was right in Perry's world again. He finished the game with a modest 36 yards rushing and 34 receiving, but the important factor for Perry is that he's now on the field more than he's off - a potentially scary thought for the remainder of the Terrapins' ACC opponents.

"As far as the injuries, I'm not focused on that," Perry said. "It's a chance for me to go out there and do what I can. That's what I'm about and that's what I'm going to do."

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