O'Donnell puts some kick into struggling program

September 14, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- The fireworks in the Maryland offense have fizzled. The defense that set an NCAA record for futility last season is allowing more yards than ever.

The special teams, however, have improved thanks to Joe O'Donnell's right foot.

A year after the kicking game was a hindrance, O'Donnell has returned the field goal to the Terps' game plan. A sophomore transfer from Rural Ridge, Pa., who kicked for Division I-AA Tennessee-Martin in 1993, O'Donnell has made all three of his field-goal attempts and, equally important, boosted the kickoff coverage unit.

O'Donnell kicked off five times in a 52-20 loss to Florida State. The first was a failed onside-kick attempt that went out of bounds on the fly, but two of the next four were fielded in the end zone and another cleared the end zone. Not counting the onside kick, the average start for the Seminoles was their 18-yard line.

"I didn't sleep for two days before that game, and I was pretty juiced," O'Donnell said. "I was too excited about the onside kick and put a little too much power into it."

O'Donnell's 40-yard field goal provided the Terps with their only first-half points at Duke. He easily made 27- and 30-yarders against Florida State, in eight minutes surpassing the one field goal Maryland collected in 1993.

O'Donnell, who beat out recruited freshman Brad Rhodes, was told a scholarship would be his if he won the Terps' kicking jobs. Does he have to be the starter for six games? Seven?

"I don't know," O'Donnell said. "I haven't talked about that with the coaches since camp started, and to be honest, I haven't been thinking about it."

In a kicker comparison, O'Donnell more than held his own against Florida State's Scott Bentley, the nation's top recruit in 1993. He'll be compared to another renowned kicker Saturday at West Virginia, even if Todd Sauerbrun is better known as a punter.

Back to basics?

The Mountaineers' offense has been limited to three touchdowns in as many games, but the defense kept Ball State and Rutgers under 200 yards. That doesn't bode well for a Maryland offense that hasn't found last year's record-setting form.

Coach Mark Duffner, quarterback Scott Milanovich and others said that Maryland's offense deserves some of the blame for the way Florida State moved through the Terps' defense in the second half. Maryland had the ball for less than 10 minutes in the half. The Terps were 0-for-6 on third-down conversions, and their two other possessions ended in interceptions.

The Terps experimented in spring practice and in August with formations that included a tight end and two backs, but they have been seldom seen in the first two games.

"We've been working so much on the other stuff, we haven't been getting the reps on the stuff that worked last year," Milanovich said. "I think we're going to work the run-and-shoot part of the offense more. It's been our bread and butter."

Miscellaneous

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Pete Sorrentino, the backup at right guard, tore an anterior cruciate ligament against Florida State and will not play the rest of this season. . . . Pat Ward, another redshirt freshman, is listed as the backup at left guard, but Duffner said he'll probably start at nose guard against West Virginia. . . . Freshman Latroy Fowlkes (North County), another defensive lineman, is out of practice with an undiagnosed ailment that is affecting his breathing.

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