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Kershaw's time arrives following WVU heroics

September 24, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Right place. Right time.

Usually, those four words describe someone's success in a lightning-quick instance.

For University of Maryland linebacker William Kershaw, time and location came together when the Terrapins needed it the most last Saturday against West Virginia University. But even though everything was defined by a snap of a finger, the same statement could be made about Kershaw and his spot on the Terrapins' defense.

Kershaw blocked WVU's potential game-winning field goal with 10 seconds remaining. It prolonged Maryland's chances to beat the then-No. 7 team in the country, even though the Terps lost 19-16 in overtime.

But in the same breath, having the right timing - and patience - has helped make Kershaw the starting weak-side linebacker as a junior in the Terps' defense.

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"This year, I put it in my mind that it was my time," Kershaw said. "I worked hard to get ready. I couldn't be frustrated about sitting and watching the last couple of years. I'm having fun now, but I had to wait for my time."

It has been a long journey for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior to get his spot on the Maryland defense.

He started out as a true freshman playing his first game against Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic in 2002. He had seven tackles against the Irish in Maryland's 22-0 loss. But after that Kershaw was placed on the back burner while the Terps used their experience to their advantage.

As a freshman middle linebacker, he was down the depth chart behind E.J. Henderson, who defined Maryland's defense in Friedgen's first two seasons as head coach of the Terps. Last season, he moved to strong side linebacker but was behind senior Leroy Ambush while senior Leon Joe was on the weak side.

Now with experience and 27 pounds of added weight, Kershaw's time has come.

"I'm a lot stronger but I needed to work to be more consistent," he said. "I have to get focused on slowing down and let my mind get right."

It was right mind, right place and right time for Kershaw and the Terps near the end of regulation on Saturday.

Maryland's Nick Novak missed a 49-yard field goal with 1:05 remaining which would have given the Terps the lead. WVU rushed downfield, trying to set up a winning kick in the final seconds.

"We felt fortunate to have a second chance," Kershaw said. "On the first one, we were offside, so they had to kick it again."

With 12 seconds remaining, Brad Cooper went wide right on a 44-yard attempt, but Maryland was flagged for being offside to give WVU another chance to win in regulation.

On his second try, Cooper launched a 39-yard try that Kershaw batted down.

"Basically, I just jumped. I was so far into the backfield, I just threw my hands up," Kershaw said. "I felt it hit my hands. It was hard. ... It hurt a bit. We knew someone had to make a big play. Everyone got in there and we got a great push and I just happened to be the one to make the play. We felt the momentum change on the kick. We knew we had one more chance to win."

The play only prolonged the defeat, even though Maryland scored first in overtime to go up, 16-13. Rasheed Marshall hit Chris Henry on a 7-yard, third-down pass for the winning score.

The scene changes for Maryland as it faces Duke on Saturday in the Terps' Atlantic Coast Conference opener. It's become time for Kershaw to make his wait worthwhile.

"I'm excited about starting the conference schedule because it's my first year as a starter," he said. "We want to get to 10 wins, so this will get us going. The first couple of games are nonconference and are important, but when you get in the conference each game really matters. One loss and you might be out of the race."

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