Maryland's offense makes its point again Winless Terps hope defense can step up

September 20, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland threw everything it had at West Virginia Saturday night -- including 54 passes by Scott Milanovich -- but it wasn't enough.

The Mountaineers escaped Byrd Stadium with a 42-37 victory, but it wasn't secured until they recovered a Maryland onside kick with 2:40 remaining and ran out the clock.

It was the second onside kick attempted by the Terps (0-3), who in addition to their no-huddle, run-and-shoot offense, also used a halfback-option pass and a pass off a fake punt. Two spectators from the first sellout at Byrd Stadium in nearly five years added to the craziness by running onto the field in the second quarter, but nothing seemed to faze the older, bigger and stronger Mountaineers.

"After three games [losses] in a row, it's tough to come up short," Milanovich said. "Who knows what it's going to take to put us over the edge."

In the end, Maryland's young defense had no answer for West Virginia's strength up front. The Mountaineers (2-0) had touchdown drives of 77, 65, 82, 80 and 65 yards, and they seemed able to open holes at will for quarterback Jake Kelchner and sophomore tailback Robert Walker. For the third straight week, Maryland allowed the opposing quarterback and one of his backs to pile up career highs in passing yardage and rushing yardage, respectively.

Maryland's defense, which yields more yards than any other in NCAA Division I-A and already has allowed 20 touchdowns, actually came through with its best half of the season after falling behind 28-17 at the half. West Virginia had 361 of its 542 yards by halftime.

The Mountaineers were up 42-23 after they intercepted Milanovich and moved 35 yards for their final touchdown with 8:51 remaining, but the sophomore from Butler, Pa., nearly rallied the Terps to their first victory.

He got that touchdown back a minute later, connecting with Jermaine Lewis on a 35-yard pass. It was the third touchdown catch in the game for Lewis, tying a school record. Earlier, he hauled in an 80-yard bomb and a 3-yarder on a timed pattern.

With 3:16 left, Walker lost his third fumble and West Virginia's third of the game, and Milanovich found Jason Kremus for a 5-yard touchdown pass five plays later.

Milanovich had a school-record 35 completions, 451 yards and five touchdown passes, elevating Maryland atop the NCAA team passing list. But when Ken Lytle's onside kick bounced off a West Virginia player and out of bounds, the Terps were finally done.

A holding penalty against Terps cornerback Gene Green on third down gave the Mountaineers a first down and allowed them to run out the clock.

"We thought we could stop them on that last drive," coach Mark Duffner said. "The offense played a real fine game and the defense played its best half of the year. We came awfully, awfully close."

Help could come the way of the Terps' defense in late October. Duffner said lineman Mark Sturdivant, a captain and their top returning defensive player from last year, has decided against seeking another year of eligibility through a medical redshirt and will try to come back this season. Sturdivant broke an ankle in the loss to Virginia on Sept. 4, and could return to the Terps next month.

PASSING FANCY

Maryland quarterback Scott Milanovich certainly can't be blamed for the Terps' 0-3 start.

A second straight record-setting performance earned him ECAC offensive player of the week honors.

Milanovich threw five touchdown passes for the second straight week in the 42-37 loss to West Virginia, completing 35 of 54 passes for 451 yards. In three games he has 12 touchdowns and 1,109 yards passing.

Among the records Milanovich has set or tied this season:

* Completions: The 35 against West Virginia broke the record of 34 he set the week before.

* Yards passing: The 451 yards Saturday broke John Kaleo's record of 418.

* TD passes, one game: He tied the mark of five again. Kaleo also threw five last season.

* TD passes, three games: 12.

He also has contributed even when he isn't leading the offense. His 44.2 punting average leads the Atlantic Coast Conference.

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