Terps, Pitt may pass in the night Proven offenses should dominate

October 03, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Maybe fans should bring calculators and sleeping bags.

Maryland's game against Pittsburgh tonight (7) could last long into the night because both teams bring prolific passing attacks into Byrd Stadium.

Pittsburgh (2-2) basically operates out of the one-back set. Maryland (0-4) uses the run-and-shoot. Pitt ranks fifth in the nation in total offense; Maryland is No. 21. The Panthers average 487.3 yards; Maryland averages 439.

"It could turn into a track meet," said Mike Jarmolowich, Maryland's starting inside linebacker.

Maybe.

But Maryland has to overcome its inability to score once inside the "red zone" -- the opponents' 20-yard line. The Panthers had the same trouble early in the season but seemed to solve it last week in a 41-33 victory over Minnesota.

The Panthers scored five of the six times they got the ball inside the 20. Pitt rolled to 31-6 halftime lead, then held on.

"That's obviously an area we have to focus on," Maryland coach Mark Duffner said. "We got the ball inside the 5 a couple times last week [in a 49-13 loss at Penn State] but did not get the push we needed. Part of that was their defense, and part was a lack of execution."

"They are having the same sort of trouble that we have had in terms of putting the ball in the end zone," said Pittsburgh coach Paul Hackett. "We converted our chances in the red zone, most notably the first couple times we had the football. That really set the tempo.

"But if you look at some of the numbers Maryland put up against Penn State, Maryland is a scary team," he said.

The key to slowing the Pitt offense is stopping quarterback Alex Van Pelt. Van Pelt, a senior, is averaging 305 yards passing. Last year against the Terps, Van Pelt completed 27 of 45 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns, including a bomb of 58 yards, in a 24-20 victory.

Van Pelt has been sacked once this season.

The Maryland offense, meanwhile, has been limited to 15 points or fewer three times. In an effort to get more production, Duffner will use more of a two-tight end offense as his base and less of the run-and-shoot. The Terps will try to get receiver/tight end/H-back Frank Wycheck, as well as sophomore running back Larry Washington of Randallstown High, more involved in the offense. Washington was moved to No. 2 this week behind Mark Mason.

Duffner is hoping these additions, as well as being at home and favored (by three points) for the first time, will give his team a boost.

Maryland has played three of its first four games on the road, including two against top 25 teams. Tonight's home game is the first of three straight for the Terps, who are tied with Minnesota for having the longest losing streak in Division I-A, nine games.

"It's like manna from heaven coming home," said Duffner.

Maryland is expected to win, based largely on the two teams' performances against West Virginia.

Maryland lost to West Virginia, 34-33, giving up 20 points in the last quarter. Pitt was embarrassed by the Mountaineers, 44-6. And while the Terps have lost to No. 14 Virginia, No. 21 N.C. State, West Virginia and No. 8 Penn State, Pitt has played teams such as Kent State (a 51-10 win), Rutgers (21-16 loss) and Minnesota (41-33 win).

But the Terps can't afford to turn up their noses at any team.

"Streak? What streak? I don't know anything about a losing streak," said Steve Ingram, Maryland's senior defensive tackle. "That's negative and all behind us now. What I do know is that we're 0-4 and very hungry for a win. This team still has an ache inside, one that is crying for a win. Once we get it, things are going to turn around here."

Terps center Jamie Bragg said: "We can't worry about what one team did against another. We have to remain focused on what we have to do. There's some pressure to win this one, but there's pressure to win every game. We're at home playing in front of our fans. This is a chance for us to change how a lot of people feel about Maryland. We don't want to continue that habit of losing."

* Recruiting coordinator Kyle Lingerfelt indicates Maryland will look for junior college recruits next year, possibly focusing on Nassau Community College, which has as many as six Division I prospects. The Terps need help in both interior lines and at linebacker.

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