Terps gird for Wolverines' dual threat Grbac, Vaughn lead varied offense

September 26, 1990|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- Elvis is back.

Elvis Grbac, No. 6 Michigan's junior quarterback, left the University of Maryland all shook up a year ago, completing 10 of 20 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, as the Wolverines defeated the Terps, 41-21, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

And despite Michigan having the country's leading rusher, sophomore halfback Jon Vaughn (averaging 244.5 yards per game), and one of the biggest offensive lines in college football (averaging nearly 290 pounds), the Terps won't be surprised to see the Wolverines come out throwing Saturday when they meet at Michigan Stadium (1 p.m.).

The Maryland coaching staff seems equally impressed with Michigan's passing attack.

"Oh, yeah, they can throw the football," said head coach Joe Krivak. "They came out throwing on us last year, and they did it well. Grbac has a good arm, all his receivers are big and they can run. I can't second-guess Gary Moeller [Michigan coach] on what he might do, but I expect a balanced attack."

Greg Williams, Maryland's defensive coordinator, said: "They caught us a little off guard last season with the passing. We thought they would come right at us with the run. We had just lost Kevin Fowlkes [strong safety, expelled from the university for fighting] and we had a new person back there. They caught us at the right time. We had worked on some of their passing plays, but they came up with some that Eddie Tomlin [Fowlkes' replacement] had never seen before."

Michigan (1-1) won't catch Maryland (3-1) off guard this year, but the Wolverines could give the Terps' secondary big trouble.

It's an area Michigan probably will explore because of last year's success, Maryland's overall lack of speed in the secondary and the success North Carolina State had last week throwing for 159 yards in rainy weather. Maryland is allowing 162.3 yards passing per game, and the secondary is considered the defense's weakest unit.

Last year, Michigan also had the reputation of running the football, but scored on first-quarter touchdown passes from Grbac of 23 and 11 yards.

The ploy worked well enough to soften Maryland's defense, as Michigan went to the running attack in the second half.

It could happen again Saturday.

"I think a lot of what they will do depends on their early field position," said Scott Rosen, a starting Maryland cornerback. "One thing about their receivers is that they play hard all the time, despite how many points they are up. It's going to be a challenge."

Grbac has completed 26 of 45 passes this season for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Split end Desmond Howard leads the Wolverines in receptions with 10 for 179 yards and two touchdowns, and flanker Derrick Alexander has five receptions for 88 yards.

Michigan has tried to get the ball to Vaughn as often as possible, and he has become a threat out of the backfield with six catches for 41 yards.

Michigan's passing scheme is based on play-action, and when the Wolverines want to throw deep, they usually fake a fullback into the middle, then send two receivers on the fly pattern downfield.

That speed will be a problem to Maryland on the corners. Neither Rosen nor Mike Hollis, Maryland's other starting cornerback, is exceptionally fast. Most opposing teams picked on Rosen, the more aggressive of the two in man-to-man coverage last year, but Clemson and North Carolina State isolated on Hollis the past two weeks.

Also, Maryland has had injuries at strong safety, first losing starter Ron Reagan (sprained ankle), then backup Johnny Vessels (bruised thigh). Both could play this week, but Krivak said he doesn't know how much.

"Overall, I think we have played well, except for last week," said Hollis. "Their passing game is not too complicated; it's not like they send out five receivers. But the ones that get the ball, well, they get up the field pretty good."

Maryland usually plays zone defense with two deep, a plan it is likely to use again this week.

"I think our first priority should be the run," said Glenn Page, a Maryland inside linebacker. "I think they're going to load up and just come right at us."

But . . .

"Yeah, they big played us with a couple of passes too," said Page.

"We better prepare for everything," said Krivak.

* A man who identified himself as a University of Maryland student and said he was beaten up by two football players Sept. 15 outside a College Park bar, met briefly yesterday with Krivak.

The man, who had two black eyes, said he has numbness and a lump on the right side of his face and nerve problems in his right eye.

Krivak would not discuss what the man told him. Athletic department officials would not allow reporters to interview players about the alleged incident. Acting athletic director Sue Tyler said she had heard about the alleged incident and would meet with Krivak today.

* Maryland's athletic department will earn nearly $400,000 for Saturday's game, but there could be a downside. Last year, five Terps starters were injured in the game -- including starting quarterback Neil O'Donnell, who never recovered completely from a hand injury. This year, the Terps still are in the race for the Atlantic Coast Conference title, but injuries could push them out.

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