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Maryland gets a win, but looks shaky in the process

August 31, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It started out as an important first game for the University of Maryland football team.

There was supposed to be a new offense, a new defense, new running backs and a renewed start for a quarterback who started last season.

In the end, though, the Terrapins' 14-7 win over Delaware came off sounding like a text message among friends.

"A 'W' is a 'W,'" said Maryland center Edwin Williams.

It was the universal thought that seemed to be passed along every cell phone owned by the Terrapins and transferred to the handsets of the media just for emphasis.

The Terps rolled a West Coast-styled offense, a 3-5-3 defensive set, a new running attack led by Da'Rel Scott and a return to the starting huddle of quarterback Jordan Steffy into a seven-point win over an NCAA Championship Subdivision team.

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Sure, the Blue Hens played in the national championship game last year, but Maryland had to figure it wouldn't be that close. Or did it?

"Well, I told you it would be a tough game," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "You didn't believe me. They're a good football team and I think we got something out of this game. It was a hard-fought win."

Maryland owned a 7-0 lead at the half, but missed three 40-plus yard field goals that would have made it at least look a little better.

The offense was faced with tough field position for much of the first half. The Terps were able to drive 30 to 50 yards with ease, but began to sputter around the Delaware 30, resulting in the three field-goal attempts. The two touchdown drives came when the Terps started on Delaware's 48 and 42.

"We did a lot of good things and we got some things we have to get better at," Friedgen said. "We probably ran the ball better than I thought we would run the ball, but we probably didn't throw the ball as well as we have been throwing it."

The statistics and the results would probably bear that out. The Terps finished with 397 yards, 271 coming on the ground in an offense designed to use the receivers.

The two touchdowns came on a 12-yard run by receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey on a reverse and a nifty 14-yard run by Davin Meggett in the second half for a 14-0 lead.

Steffy, who was given the keys to the new offense in a three-way quarterback battle during training camp, was tentative in a supposed wide-open offense. He finished 10-for-18 for 115 yards and two interceptions. He left the game with 12:08 remaining -- reportedly with a sprained right thumb -- and was replaced by Chris Turner, who closed out the game. There were four cameo appearances for Josh Portis, who ran four running plays.

"Any mistakes (Steffy) makes, we make as an offense," Williams said.

The unwitting star of the game was Scott, who rushed 27 times for 197 yards -- a school record for an opening game -- in his first start after carrying the ball just 14 times last season. He had runs for 40, 37 and 26 yards to help the total before cramping up.

"A 'W' is a 'W,' is the way I see it," Scott said. "I wanted to come out and set a tone to let people know what I can do. The first game is to try and work the kinks out."

The defense held down the Blue Hens just enough to pull out the win. Delaware is in transition after the graduation of quarterback Joe Flacco, who is now with the Baltimore Ravens, but still gave the Terps problems. Maryland didn't seal the game until Terrell Skinner's interception in the final 3:20 of the game.

"We did a lot of good in this game," Skinner said. "The fact is we came out of it with a 'W.' They say the biggest improvement a team makes is from Week 1 to Week 2."

Maryland has to be happy. At least their 'W' is real.

"I told our players after the game how proud I was of them," Delaware coach K.C. Keeler said. "But this was not a moral victory. I do not believe in moral victories. We had our opportunities and we let them get away."

And the real win gives the Terps a starting point from which to grow.

"The clock is down to 0:00," Williams said. "We just have to get ready for the next one. That's all we can do. Just take them one at a time."

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