Terps try to break Lions' spell Lopsided rivalry on hold after this year's matchup

October 02, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Losing to Penn State is a bond among football generations at Maryland.

Curley Byrd, the winningest coach in Terps' history, was calling the shots when the series began in 1917 with a 57-0 loss to the Nittany Lions. Tom Nugent could revel in the lonesome 1961 victory, but he was still 1-5 against the Nittany Lions. Jerry Claiborne took Maryland to seven bowl games, but he was 0-8 against Penn State. Bobby Ross was 0-4.

The Terps, in their second year of Mark Duffner's rebuilding plan, get a last chance tonight at 7 to beat the Nittany Lions before the Maryland-Penn State series is put on hold because of Penn State's alignment with the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions come to Byrd Stadium with a 4-0 record and a No. 9 ranking, and the Terps are 0-4 and bogged down with a defense that is on pace to set an NCAA record for futility.

It ranks with the most lopsided series in the history of major college football. The Nittany Lions are a head-shaking 34-1-1 against the Terps -- a Maryland victory in 1961 and a tie in 1989 the only blips. Notre Dame has beaten Navy 29 straight times since 1963, but at least the Mids can point to nine earlier victories over the Fighting Irish. Rice had beaten Texas 20 times before the Longhorns began their 27-game win streak over the Owls.

A Penn State victory over Maryland has become automatic, even when the Nittany Lions struggled. In 1988, when its NCAA-record 49 straight non-losing seasons ended, it took a three-game losing streak into the Maryland game, but won 17-10 when the Terps stalled on the Penn State 13 with 55 seconds left.

Current standing and history notwithstanding, Penn State coach Joe Paterno will try to build the Terps into another Michigan, the ++ next opponent for the Nittany Lions and their first big showdown in the Big Ten -- the new affiliation that affected scheduling Maryland and other Eastern foes.

"Their [Terps'] offense has been virtually unstoppable," Paterno said. "They're very young defensively, but they play with a lot of enthusiasm. They can run, hustle to the ball and hit you hard. . . . I hope this isn't the final game against Maryland. I'd like to play them in the future."

No wonder. Twenty-three of Paterno's 251 victories have come against Maryland.

"Obviously, Penn State is more of a football school," said Scott Milanovich, the Terps' sophomore quarterback who is a native of western Pennsylvania. "They've got a legend on the sideline. In the first, second week of the season, North Carolina was No. 14 and Penn State No. 15. If we played each that day, we would have been more scared of Penn State. They have the reputation."

Nonetheless, Milanovich is glad he didn't go to Linebacker U.

"I've thought about being at a school where football is a way of life," Milanovich said, "but if I was at Penn State, people might be talking about my quarterback sacks instead of my touchdown passes. I know it's the last time we're going to play them, but it's my first shot at them. We'd like to go out with a win against them."

The possible good news for Maryland is that there are so many underclassmen for whom losing to Penn State isn't ingrained. The bad news is that there are so many underclassmen starting on defense, and seven are in their first year of NCAA Division I-A football.

Outside linebacker Jaime Flores, the only fifth-year senior on the defense, is among the handful of Terps who were in uniform for the 1989 tie at Memorial Stadium, a welcome result after five years in which Penn State's combined margin of victory over the Terps was 17 points. He tires hearing about the Nittany Lions' superiority.

"You hear it all the time, Penn State is going to beat you," Flores said. "There's a lot of Penn State alumni in the Baltimore area, and every time I go home [he went to Poly], people don't ask me about ACC opponents, they ask me about Penn State. People are beginning to get interested in Florida State and other teams in the ACC, but Penn State's still closer."

Actually, Penn State has put some distance between itself and Maryland since the tie in 1989. The Nittany Lions have won 47-7 NTC and 49-13, and Maryland will need to play its best game of the season to stay with Penn State and to try to avoid its first 0-5 start since 1970.

NOTES: It will be Penn State's first visit to Byrd Stadium since 1985. The Terps' past three home games in the series were played at Memorial Stadium. . . . Maryland assistant coach John Baxter was born in 1963, two years after the Terps beat Penn State. . . . The 1961 Maryland team is having a reunion and will provide the game's honorary captains, Roger Shoals, Bill Kirchiro and Don Van Reenan. . . . Dick "Little Mo" Modzelewski, the Outland Trophy winner in 1952 who'll enter the College Football Hall of Fame in December, and Eric Wilson, an All-American linebacker in 1983 and '84, also will be honored.

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