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Allen can do so much while doing so little

December 31, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Call Josh Allen the Frugal Tailback.

The University of Maryland running back doesn't waste energy. In fact, he is so effortless at times, he has a knack for saving most of his motion for the perfect moment.

Words are also few and far between. To Allen, talk is cheap and the trash variety is recyclable. West Virginia University learned that about Allen first hand last year when the then-freshman turned the Mountaineers' Hefty bag haymakers into the prime fertilizer that turned the Terrapins' 2002 season rosy.

"They had missed a couple of tackles on me," Allen said, thinking back to the Oct. 5, 2002 game at Mountaineer Field. "One of their linebackers came up and said to me 'You aren't going to break any more tackles.' A couple of plays later, I scored a touchdown."

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The whole exchange was the prelude to Allen's coming out party as a big time college running back. It happened late in the first quarter, right before Allen busted a 70-yard run for Maryland's second touchdown in a 28-point first quarter that led to a stunning 48-17 victory over WVU.

At the time, it was a huge win for Maryland, which entered the game with a 3-2 record and was shaky at best under the direction of quarterback Scott McBrien - a transfer from WVU. The Terps went on to a highly successful 10-3 record, which included a victory in the Peach Bowl.

Meanwhile, Allen was entering the game as a new yet unproven commodity. Coach Ralph Friedgen had pressed Allen into duty in backup roles in games against Eastern Michigan and Wofford to introduce the freshman to the college game. At WVU, injuries moved Allen into the starting role.

He responded with 116 yards and two touchdowns in 16 carries to ignite the Terps' offense and turnaround. Allen has been a main cog ever since, accounting for 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns in 235 carries in his two seasons.

"You have to go into tackles and try to take away what they do best," Allen said. "They try for a leg or an arm and you have to make sure they aren't getting enough of them to get you down. (The running backs) pride ourselves on breaking tackles. It's going to take more than one man to bring us down."

WVU had a little better success against Allen when it came to Byrd Stadium this season, but continued to have the rotten luck against the Terps. Allen had 56 yards and only one touchdown - have the outing he had the season before - but Maryland's defense dominated in a 34-7 victory which sparked the Terps run to Thursday's Gator Bowl and a third meeting with WVU.

Since losing to Maryland, WVU has turned its game around to get into this New Year's Day bowl-rematch position.

WVU readjusted its defense, enough to narrowly lose to then-No. 2 Miami to fall to 1-4. After that though, WVU has won seven straight games to finish with a Big East title. In the process, the Mountaineers have become surer tacklers.

"I would have said that before," Allen said of WVU's former loose tackling style. "Now, they are more focused and disciplined."

That makes this third meeting of the two teams in the last 15 months even more intriguing. Even in all the grousing over the Bowl Championship Series pairings and bowl matchups, WVU's improvements instantly make it a tougher game for Maryland.

"It doesn't matter," Allen said. "We just have to go out and do the job. We can't control who we play. You can only control what you do on the day you play."

And what you say in the presence of Josh Allen.

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