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Homecoming Ball

October 02, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md.

With one offensive adjustment, the University of Maryland turned its homecoming matchup with No. 19 Virginia into a sing-along.

It was easy when they started to follow the bouncing Ball.

Running back Lance Ball, that is. The Terrapins showed some slightly different looks and featured Ball by using an inside run out of a shotgun set that turned into sweet music in a surprising 45-33 Atlantic Coast Conference win on Saturday at Byrd Stadium.

"Today, offensively, they put together and played very well against a very good football team," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Today, it felt like old times. When I was at Georgia Tech, I expected to score every time we had the ball."

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Maryland almost had to score every time in what became an offensive shootout with 98 points and nearly 1,000 yards of total offense on the board.

But nothing seemed bigger than Ball when he was placed in the position to run what basically was an option play out of a single-back set where he stood next to quarterback Sam Hollenbach in a shotgun alignment.

Basically, it was a long snap with Hollenbach dropping the ball directly in Ball's breadbasket. It started out with big runs that busted over the left side of the Maryland line, translating to 163 yards and two touchdowns in 17 carries.

"I was being used as a one back and it basically moved the defense into different slots," Ball said. "It's an option play - called 44-45 Gut B Option - where they hand the ball to me or we run the option. It's tough for the defense to stop because they have to watch for so much."

When Maryland (3-2, 2-1) turned to the play, the whole game became an inside job. It gave the Terps something that no other team had given them through the first four games of the season - respect for the running game.

"There were about two or three plays that we had difficulty with all day," said Virginia coach Al Groh. "In the long run, they did a good job executing them. Lance Ball did a great job running the ball."

For the majority of the first four games, opposing teams didn't seem to worry about facing the Maryland run. In the first two home games against Clemson and West Virginia, the Terps had a combined 100 yards to show in two agonizing losses.

But the inside handoff forced Virginia to stay at home defensively, in order to defend the run. It was a good sign for Hollenbach, who took three vicious unblocked hits early.

"That was huge," Hollenbach said. "It was a classic job of good coaching. We definitely made a lot of changes. Coach Friedgen and (offensive coordinator Charlie) Taaffe talked and communicated them to me. When they are calling the option, I'm only reading one guy. We go up there and set the point and go from there. That is one of our base plays that we have been working on since Aug. 11 and we have to be good at it."

It was at its best Saturday, especially since three Maryland players put on career-best performances.

Besides Ball's breakout game, Hollenbach threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns and completed 11 of 13 passes in the second half. Receiver Danny Melendez accounted for 125 yards in receptions and a touchdown. And even though it wasn't a career best, Keon Lattimore added 46 yards and two more scoring runs. Maryland finished with 250 yards rushing and 520 yards of total offense on 79 plays from scrimmage.

Lattimore drew the start for the game over Mario Merrills after winning an in-week competition for the job. Ball was second off the bench, but got the majority of the work, thanks to the inside running. Merrills, who ran for 149 yards in the season-opening win over Navy, didn't run an offensive play.

"Lance was the hot back," Friedgen said. "He made some great cuts and had a couple of great touchdown runs.

"It was just an inside zone play run, but a lot of time we weren't getting any yardage. What happened was we ran a lot of that play against man coverage. We ran out of passing sets when they were covering us two-deep and threw out of running sets because I felt like we were showing too many tendencies."

They were tendencies that Virginia (3-1, 1-1) never seemed to adjust to.

"We tried four or five different solutions to them," Groh said "In the long run, no matter what the call or the adjustment was, too many guys got blocked. You've got to beat blocks. If you don't beat blocks, you are going to give up some yardage."

And in the long run, Virginia gave up a big game and maybe the turning point of the season for the Terrapins.

"We have a very good offense," Ball said. "We have a lot of talented players. We just came together. Even when they scored on us, we said, 'Let's go out there and score again.' Our offensive line was great. We had a great attitude coming into the game, knowing that we could run the ball if we found the open holes."

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