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Heyward-Bey makes a difference

October 19, 2008|By Bob Parasiliti

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Darrius Heyward-Bey is a great decoy.

But the University of Maryland's offense and its speedy receiver both realize he makes a much better live target.

The Terrapins took the bull's-eye off Heyward-Bey's back and put it squarely on Wake Forest's defense as they allowed him to do what he does best.

Catch passes.

Heyward-Bey had 11 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown on Saturday as the key component in Maryland's 26-0 blanking of No. 21 Wake Forest, which not only put the Terps back in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division chase, but put them in early control with a tie for the lead and the tiebreaker in hand.

It all happened mainly because Maryland found a way to get Heyward-Bey the ball. In Maryland's last two games with Clemson and Virginia, Heyward-Bey did not record a catch.

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On Saturday, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen knew it had to be different.

"Wake Forest was so good against the run, we had to do it," Friedgen said. "We had to find ways to (get him the ball)."

The Terps made a concerted effort to get the ball to Heyward-Bey from the start, taking advantage of the Demon Deacon's soft Cover 2 defense.

"We knew coming into the game we had to get him the ball because he is our biggest playmaker on offense," said quarterback Chris Turner, who threw for 321 yards and a touchdown. "The defense was playing soft coverage for most of the game because they didn't want to give up the big play, and we took advantage of it."

Maryland found Heyward-Bey on the first play of the game, a 9-yard strike on the right hash marks. Heyward-Bey was the target on four of the first nine plays and caught a 9-yard halfback option pass from Da'Rel Scott to give the Terps a 7-0 lead after the first drive.

In the first five plays, Heyward-Bey touched the ball more times (three) than in the previous two games combined.

"It is only frustrating when we lose," Heyward-Bey said of his offensive exile. "I'm not the type that needs to have the ball all the time. It would be nice. ... I just want the ball to make plays for the team."

Getting Heyward-Bey involved changed the complexion of the game for Maryland. The receiver was the Terps' main target on 18 of their 75 plays (24 percent). He accounted for 30.1 percent of the passing attack and 21.5 percent of the total offense. He touched the ball in the first five of Maryland's six scoring drives.

"That's how we practice," Heyward-Bey said. "The ball is going all around. It's just fun to be out there and try to make plays for the team. I worked on running after making the catch and on my patterns during the off week. The off week helped me a lot."

Heyward-Bey's 11 catches were the most by a Maryland receiver since Geroy Simon pulled in 16 balls against Boston College on Nov. 18, 1995.

Maryland's ability to make Heyward-Bey relevant again ultimately helped the entire offense.

"(Getting Heyward-Bey the ball) opens things up a lot," Turner said. "He takes guys out of the box. It's as simple as that."

Four Obi Egekeze field goals helped Maryland build a 19-0 lead after three quarters that Wake never had a chance of overcoming. Maryland's defense made sure of that by smothering the Demon Deacons' big-play capabilities.

The victory helped wash away some of the doubt on Maryland's offense that arose after the 31-0 loss to Virginia on Oct. 4.

"I have always been comfortable with this offense," Heyward-Bey said. "Virginia forced us into things we didn't want to do. The plays are the same every week, we just have to make them and get the job done. The emotional swing of it is that it was 11 catches ... and we won."

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