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Allen's big play was spark Terps needed

November 05, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@heraldj-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Excuse Josh Allen if he was squinting last Saturday.

It was just the involuntary reaction to getting in the wide-open spaces with ample sunlight in his face.

It was a strange feeling for Allen. It came on a simple swing pass screen last Saturday against Florida State. It turned into an all-out, 72-yard run to the decisive touchdown in the University of Maryland's 20-17 upset victory over the Seminoles.

With one flick of quarterback Joel Statham's wrist, a mountain of frustration left Allen. It produced Maryland's longest play of the season. It was the big score in the Terps' biggest game. It was the first time the junior had a chance to break free and really rack up some yardage, much like he did last season when he rushed for 257 yards against Virginia.

"It felt good to see daylight and get out into the open field," Allen said. "It took everyone to do it. The line blocked and then I saw Kyle (Schmitt) and Lou Lombardo out downfield blocking and then I got help from the receivers. It was a total effort."

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The simple flip was a broad brush stroke in an offensive gameplan masterpiece by Maryland. The Terps used Florida State's defensive speed against the Seminoles and all but got them spinning around like they had a foot nailed to the ground.

Allen rolled to the right and caught Statham's short pass in stride at the Maryland 28. He worked along the sideline and broke two tackles at the 40 before cutting back to the middle of the field. He outran Florida State's defense until reaching the 10, when two more Seminoles made desparation dives at his legs before he scored and fell to the ground in the end zone for the third-quarter score that put Maryland up, 20-10.

"So many things ran through my head," Allen said. "I thought about what the touchdown meant to my teammates. Then I was wondering what my dad was thinking. Then, I thought about my cousin who is a Florida State fan, but she always pulls for me. And then I thought about one of my friends who is a Florida State fan and called me to tell me they were going to kick our butts. I just wanted to lay there and soak up all the feelings."

The play helped pop a cork that had bottled up Maryland's attack.

Allen spent his first two years getting big yardage, working as the punishing back to compliment Chris Downs and Bruce Perry. This season, he's jumped into the speed back role and hasn't enjoyed the success of the past.

" The lack of running game has been frustrating because it is such a big part of the offense," Allen said. "It has always been run first."

The running attack has been a concern for coach Ralph Friedgen for most of the season. Maryland has suffered through many growing pains on offense, starting with the maturation of Statham as the new starting quarterback. But the offensive line hasn't been in sync and the receivers haven't consistent enough to force opposing defenses to have to play Maryland honest.

"I think we've got some areas to get better. If we get to be one-dimensional, I think then we're going to get very predictable," Friedgen said. "I think we hung in therre with our running game against Florida State even though we didn't get as much as we wanted. We stayed with it, tried to keep some balance in there, and we were able to get it done. But do I think we need to get better at the running game? Yes, I do."

Last year, Virginia was the breakout game for the Maryland running game. Allen rushed 38 times for 257 yards and two touchdowns - one for 80 yards - as the Terps dumped the Cavaliers, 27-17. Maryland had 278 yards rushing as a team.

"The difference last year in the Virginia game was the (offensive) line," Allen said. "They got out there and controled the line of scrimmiage. They set (the holes) all up and I just hit them. Anyone could have done that last year, I was just the fortunate one,"

Virginia will be a different team this year. Not only will the Cavaliers be playing at home, they are the second-best rushing defense in the ACC, using size and speed to contain opposing ground games to just 101 yards per game.

After last week's change in offensive fortunes, Allen is anxious to try and match his 257-yard outing from last year.

"I'm ready to go. I'm always ready to go. I have another 257 in me," Allen said. "Sammy (Maldonado) has 257 in him and even Ricardo Dickerson, who would come in if anything happens, is ready to run for 257. It's an all out battle everytime we play Virgina. We just want to make sure we come out and this week and prepare in practice for whatever and stay together."

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