Kaleo takes the bad with the good Terp understands responsibility of QB

October 17, 1992|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- For the first time since John Kaleo began directing Maryland's run-and-shoot offense, the kid threw in a clinker last weekend against Georgia Tech.

Kaleo went 20-for-41 for 264 yards but had four interceptions.

"I knew I had a bad game," he said. "In my position, that's going to happen. I was making poor decisions, throwing interceptions when I should have eaten the ball.

"But you just have to eliminate stupid decision-making, put it in the past and go on. I didn't do my part in the last game and I have to do it for us to be successful. As the quarterback, it's my job to turn this thing around."

That eagerness to accept responsibility is one of the big reasons coach Mark Duffner went to Kaleo after declaring all positions wide open when he took the Maryland job this past winter.

And Kaleo has rewarded the coach's faith. In Maryland's no-huddle, get-it-up-there offense, he has thrived.

The former All-American at Montgomery-Rockville is sixth nationally in total offense, leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in that category and is the primary reason the Terps (1-5, 0-3 in the ACC) are eighth nationally in passing and 15th in total offense going into today's 1:30 p.m. game against Wake Forest (2-3, 0-3) at Byrd Stadium.

"They certainly present a challenge for our defense," Wake Forest coach Bill Dooley said. "They've got a quarterback who just does a tremendous job and three of the top four receivers in the ACC. They get a lot of points and a lot of yardage."

Kaleo's top targets are Marcus Badgett (41 catches), Richie Harris (30) and Dan Prunzik (29).

"You just can't give up the big play," Dooley said. "You can allow them to bend and stretch your defense, but you can't let them break it. If they do that a few times, it can turn out to be a real long afternoon."

Kaleo is having a year to match any achieved by his predecessors -- Boomer Esiason, Stan Gelbaugh, Frank Reich, Neil O'Donnell, et al.

He is well on the way to breaking a number of their season records.

"I don't know if he is the classic run-and-shoot quarterback," said Duffner. "But he is classic because he is putting points up there.

"But, more than that, I chose him because he is a fiery competitor with a fierce desire to win. And he is very able to dispense that to the rest of his teammates and offense.

"He fights out there; competes like crazy. That's why he won the job."

Football hasn't always been so sweet for the senior who led Montgomery-Rockville to 44.6 points per game and the national junior college title game two years ago.

Kaleo seriously considered transferring last season, when he threw only 55 passes and mopped up for starter Jim Sandwisch.

"I called around because I was thinking about it [transferring]," he said. "Hawaii was one of the places. But I decided not to when the coach [Joe Krivak] resigned."

He won't elaborate about his difference of opinion with Krivak.

Now, he is battling through some injuries -- a hairline crack in his right fibula, a sprained left shoulder -- while trying to transform all the yardage into victories.

It's going to take a lot more than bumps, nicks and bruises to force him to the bench.

"My leg is healthier. I should be back to 100 percent soon," he said.

Kaleo does not lack for confidence. He believes the Terrapins "could be 5-1 or at least 4-2 and sitting pretty" but for some bad breaks.

"I believe in myself and my ability," he said. "My teammates believe in me, in my ability to move away from the pocket and run. And I love playing for Coach Duffner. He always backs us up."

The first JUCO quarterback ever at Maryland, Kaleo already owns four single-game school records. And he is still on a mission.

"I was very privileged to be chosen as the starter," he said. "I wanted to show what I was made of and show people I am a football player. I think I've done my part.

"I chose this position when I was young for the glamour," Kaleo said. "I also know it's the focal point of the offense and gets a lot of blame. I'm not going to run from that. I'll take the responsibility."

After being the forgotten man, the responsibility is a very light load.

Kaleo's bests

Maryland quarterback John Kaleo has established four single-game school records this season:

Category ... No. ... Opponent

Completions ... 32 .... Virginia

Attempts ...... 56 .... N.C. State

Off. plays .... 67 .... N.C. State

Yards......... 415 .... Pittsburgh

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