Terps hope to surprise Wolverines Need near-perfection to upset No. 6 team

September 29, 1990|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANN ARBOR,MICHIGAN — ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Maryland is hoping there is one more miracle left in the 1990 season.

In the first two weeks, Maryland won football games on last-minute touchdown passes. Then last week against North Carolina State, the Terps said they won by divine intervention. Late in the game, a Wolfpack running back, without being hit, fumbled, and several plays later Maryland place-kicker Dan DeArmas kicked a 25-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to win, 13-12.

Today the Terps (3-1) travel to Michigan Stadium for a game with the No. 6 Wolverines (1-1), who are favored by 22 points.

The Terps are hoping that their defense plays well, their offense controls the ball and the football gods smile on them again.

"I haven't tried to con the players," said coach Joe Krivak. "They watch the films. Michigan is the best team we will play this year. They have great personnel, are well-coached and a veteran group. It's a great challenge for us to go out and play a team of this caliber in front of 100,000 people. I think we'll go out and play very hard, but we're going to have to play the best football game we have to date. We'll go out there and play our pants off."

Terps inside linebacker Scott Whittier said: "We're not going up there with any false illusions. We're hoping to catch them a little emotionally low [Michigan lost to No. 1 Notre Dame in its opener, but routed UCLA last week]. Hopefully, we can get a couple of turnovers early and convert them into touchdowns, then let the defense try to shut them down and get a win before they realize what happened. You never know. Maybe we can get out of there with a win."

The key for Maryland is controlling Michigan's huge offensive line of tackles Tom Dohring and Greg Skrepenak, guards Matt Elliott and Dean Dingman and center Steve Everitt, considered by some to be the best in college football. The players average 290 pounds.

The line has helped make tailback Jon Vaughn, who runs the 100 meters in 10.2 seconds, the top rusher in college football. He is averaging 244.5 yards per game, and Michigan is averaging 354.5 yards rushing, fourth best in the country.

Michigan's strength matches up with Maryland's strength, however, as the Terps have allowed only 112.8 yards rushing this season. Most of the credit for that goes to the defensive line of tackles Larry Webster, Lubo Zizakovic and nose guard Rick Fleece, but the Terps are giving away 30 pounds per man to Michigan.

More importantly, Maryland likes to stunt and penetrate the gaps with its linemen. But Michigan's offensive-line splits are only 8 to 12 inches apart, which pretty much forces the Terps to play the Wolverines one-on-one.

"They want to come straight at you and blast you off the football," said Dennis Murphy, Maryland's defensive line coach. "It's almost like they want to form a human wall. Late in the game, that beef can wear you down."

It is not only Michigan's running game that has Maryland concerned. Last year the Wolverines surprised the Terps with a strong passing game, as quarterback Elvis Grbac completed 10 of 20 passes for 187 yards and threw first-quarter touchdown passes of 23 yards and 11 yards.

"You kind of prepare for everything," said Maryland cornerback Scott Rosen. "Last year everyone talked about Bo [Schembechler, the former Michigan coach], the Big Ten and how much they like to run the football. Three minutes into the game [a 41-21 Maryland loss], they're dropping bombs on us."

"I think our defense can play with them [because] we can play with anybody," Whittier said. "But if our offense is three plays and out, three plays and out, then it could be a long day."

Michigan's defensive line players, averaging about 260 pounds, are about the same size as Maryland's. Michigan's strength is in its perimeter of outside linebackers Martin Davis and Neil Simpson and cornerbacks David Key and Lance Dottin.

Last year Maryland had some success throwing against Michigan's "soft" secondary coverage, as the Terps passed for 310 yards. Maryland may be throwing a lot of short passes to H-back Frank Wycheck and tight end Bret Boehly, underneath the zone coverages.

Short passes also would allow Maryland to control the ball and give its defense a rest.

"We had some success doing some things last year, and if it's open, we'll go for it again," Krivak said, trying not to reveal his game plan.

Maryland is averaging 358.3 yards but only 16.1 points per game. The Terps have lost five of six fumbles, and quarterback Scott Zolak has been intercepted nine times, including four against N.C. State.

"They [the Wolverines] have got most of their defensive people back from a year ago," Zolak said. "Despite the problems that we've had, we're going to play loose and shoot all our bullets, even if we have to pass 50 times. This is a great opportunity for us, and we don't care what the line is on the game. It's 0-0 at the beginning of the game."

Michigan coach Gary Moeller said: "I hope our players don't feel they can take the week off. We need to get better each week. If we don't play up to our potential, Maryland can embarrass us. They have improved a great deal since last year. I'm not trying to make them out to be NFL champions or anything, but they're playing good football right now."

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