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Terps stand together

November 04, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Josh Allen has many roles with the University of Maryland football team.

He's a tailback, a pass catcher and one of the experienced leaders on the team.

But Allen recently added another job to the list: Bouncer.

Allen is often the last line of defense when it comes to protecting quarterback Joel Statham. Many a time, the junior is tucked back to throw a block to stop a runaway linebacker from hitting the quarterback.

But three weeks ago, Allen guarded Statham from an unusual foe - a Maryland Terrapins fan.

"During the North Carolina State game, we were coming off the field and one of our fans stood up and started yelling at Joel. I looked at him and told him, 'That's enough of that,'" Allen said, running his hand across his lips to give a zipper effect. "The guy was one of our fans, sitting behind our bench, wearing one of our jerseys."

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Statham has been a target. Maryland struggled out of the gate after three great years. This was a season of many changes for the Terps, and failure - set off by a three-game losing streak - wasn't being tolerated as some fans became fickle.

Statham became the obvious target for fans and media alike.

"That guy has no idea what Joel goes through," Allen said. "All the aches and pains and all the behind-the-scenes things to prepare and study for games. Those are all things that most people don't notice. It's tough on the quarterback because you have the weight of the whole team on your shoulders. I don't even know how Joel stays focused."

Since the beginning of the season, coach Ralph Friedgen and the Terrapins have stood steadfast in support of Statham. Fans called for Statham's head and for change as Maryland fell from 3-1 to 3-4, but the redshirt sophomore remained in the starting slot.

"You have to keep things in perspective," Allen said. "Joel wants to win just like everyone else. He's not out there just throwing the ball around. We are all trying to go out there and fight for the fans and ourselves. It doesn't matter who's the quarterback, everyone has to step up."

After some stunning success against Florida State's speed, the key play came in the third quarter when Statham connected with Allen on a screen pass that turned into a 72-yard touchdown, Maryland's longest play of the season. The score became the decisive points of the game.

"We haven't had a big play like that in awhile," Allen said. "After a while, you start to get used to not making big plays. You get to standing and hoping for it to happen. It's been everything, not just Joel. It's us (running backs), the line and the receivers. It's just everyone at different times. To get things done and make them click, we need everyone working together. We got a lot of confidence from that run."

The play and the 333-yard passing performance became Statham's shining moment, sort of a validation of all the confidence the Terps have invested in him. But through it all, the doubting fan from the N.C. State game was nowhere to be found while the Terps were finding an identity.

"There were a lot of guys doing a lot of things right. I looked up and saw Kyle Schmitt and (Lou) Lombardo downfield and blocking and then the receivers got in there and helped out," Allen said. "It was a total team effort. I had no choice but to do something when you have something like that."

Not only did Statham's dissenting voter miss the big play, but he was absent for what could become the defining moment of the season for the Terrapins, who will be tested again Saturday at No. 12 Virginia.

"We just have to work together and compete," Allen said. "We know we have different weapons and a lot of speed. No one looks at us as a team with a lot of speed. It was good to open up the playbook and run some of those things when you don't have anything to lose. I think we have the confidence now to pick each other up."

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