First stop, Pitt, as Terps hit road for fresh start

October 05, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The University of Maryland's game against No. 17 Pittsburgh at Pitt Stadium (1:30 p.m.) may be its fourth game of the season, but the Terps are looking at it as a new beginning.

Today begins the first of three consecutive road games for Maryland (1-2), which has played all its previous games at Byrd Stadium. The Terps won't return home until Oct. 26 when they face Duke during homecoming week.

Since losing to West Virginia two weeks ago, Maryland has had a week off and plenty of time to think about the 37-7 blowout and regroup for a fresh start.

Was Maryland that bad and West Virginia that good? Or did the Terps just have a bad day? And can they recover, since history shows that the victor of the West Virginia-Maryland game usually has a winning season and the loser never finishes above .500?

"Today's game is a big, big game," said Maryland senior starting cornerback and captain Scott Rosen, who will not play because of a hamstring injury. "I know that may sound corny, because every game should be a big game.

"But we've had two weeks to think about that West Virginia game. It left a bitter taste. We've lost two in a row, and it's important that we get a win. Losing is contagious, and once it starts, it's hard to break. I think we've got some things to prove to some people, and to ourselves."

Pitt also has something to prove. The Panthers have lost 17 players, including eight starters, from their 1990 preseason roster who still would have been eligible to play this season -- academic casualties, transfers and those dismissed for violating team rules.

Though they are undefeated in four games, the Panthers have beaten lowly Temple and Southern Mississippi. A win against a team like Maryland could boost the Panthers into the top 10 as they prepare for No. 8 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., next Saturday.

"I understand our players getting excited, but we have to remain focused on a very talented Maryland team," said Pitt coach Paul Hackett. "I've been preaching all year that each game is the most important game."

Maryland players are hoping for an overconfident Pitt, the one that beat West Virginia, 34-3.

"I know they have looked at the West Virginia film and felt we were easy," said Rosen. "That's understandable. Maybe they will overlook us, worrying more about a national championship with a win over Notre Dame. What they have to realize is that the team they saw on the film against West Virginia wasn't the real Maryland. The real Maryland plans to play a tough game against Pitt."

The game should be a defensive one because both groups can dominate play. Pitt has one of the better defensive lines in the East, led by defensive tackles Keith Hamilton (6 feet 7, 290 pounds) and Sean Gilbert (6-6, 300).

It's also one of the biggest defensive lines Maryland will face.

"I think they have to take this bunch down to the slaughterhouse to get weighed," said Joe Krivak, Maryland's head coach.

Maryland's offensive line has been one of the team's weakest units this season. The Terps can run-block, but have had trouble protecting the quarterback (allowed 10 sacks and countless hurries).

Pitt has registered nine sacks this season, and is allowing only 132.3 rushing and 183.8 passing yards. Meanwhile, Maryland is rushing for only 110 yards and passing for 145.7.

Defensively, Maryland must control the passing attack of junior quarterback Alex Van Pelt, who has completed more than 60 percent of his passes this season.

"It's a challenge, and we've got our work cut out for us," said Krivak.

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