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Lattimore down with count

September 03, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Keon Lattimore was on a mission to put Dick Clark out of work on Saturday.

The University of Maryland running back put a new twist to the final countdown at Byrd Stadium, stealing away Clark's time-honored New Year's Eve job. Instead of seconds, Lattimore ticked off the final 10 yards before the goal line.

Three times, it was 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ... happy six points as Lattimore's determination churned out 106 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries Saturday to pace the Terrapins to a 31-14 victory over Villanova in their season opener.

But like Clark, Lattimore's countdown was the last formality before Maryland could start the party. Each touchdown was another reason to strike up the band.

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"I was happy to get over the goal line and make the crowd go wild," he said.

Even with Lattimore's success, the day was reserved for quarterback Jordan Steffy, who made his first start and gave a methodical, workman-like performance to engineer Maryland's highest scoring opening-game victory since a 30-6 win over Northern Illinois in 1996.

More attention was diverted from Lattimore because of the announcement that backup quarterback Josh Portis was lost for the season for academic reasons.

Still, Lattimore put on a show with his hard-nosed runs against the physically smaller Wildcats' defense. He followed his line for the majority of his yards.

For his efforts, Lattimore topped the 1,000-yard mark in his career. His three-touchdown game was the first by a Maryland back since Mario Merrills scored his three against Temple on Oct. 8, 2005.

"Keon missed all of spring and really wasn't able to workout until late July (because of a back injury)," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I think he's hungry. He sees this is his last chance (as a senior). I thought he ran harder today than I've ever seen him run. A couple of those touchdowns were all determination."

Something happened when Lattimore hit the 10. He found a new gear or got an extra burst of adrenalin, but it seemed failing to score was not an option.

"I saw I was not far from the goal line and I got motivated," Lattimore said. "My eyes started getting as big as tennis balls. I didn't want to be going down there and end up being put down at the 1."

He didn't.

Lattimore gave Maryland a 10-0 lead in the second quarter by going off left tackle at the 12. He was met at the 2 by a pair of Villanova defenders and put down his shoulder to bull into the end zone.

He made it 17-7 on Maryland's opening drive in the second half. Lattimore went on a left end sweep and won the race to the front corner of the end zone, fighting off Villanova's push to knock him out of bounds before the goal line.

Lattimore scored the hat trick on Maryland's next possession after Steffy was forced from the game with leg cramps. With new second-string quarterback Chris Turner running the offense, Lattimore was featured even more.

He rushed for 33 yards and caught a pass for another eight on the 57-yard march. Lattimore capped it with an 18-yard burst up the middle, spinning near the goal line to get the extra yardage for the score.

"It was a case of who wants it most will make a point on getting it done," Lattimore said. "I got it done. I was getting tired of people saying I was one-dimensional. I wanted to show I can flap my wings."

And all the while starting a happy new year for the Terps.

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