Revived Terps dream of streak, .500 mark

September 24, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Finally, the questions surrounding Maryland's psychological state don't involve bouncing back from another loss.

Coming off a victory they hope will be a springboard to their first .500 record since 1990, they take on Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest at Byrd Stadium today at noon. A crowd of 25,000 is anticipated, and tickets are available.

The questions:

* How will the Maryland offense, which had been led by Scott Milanovich since spring practice in 1993, react to new starter Kevin Foley?

* Will the defense, buoyed by the addition of Jamie Bragg to the line, stay on the road to respectability it found at West Virginia?

* Most important, can the Terps handle being 12-point favorites?

Mark Duffner, who can be .500 for the first time in his three years as Terps coach, isn't worried about his team being overconfident. Maryland (1-2, 0-1) made that mistake once, and a season-opening blowout loss at Duke is a cautionary tale that hasn't had to be repeated.

"We're a long ways from being the team we have to be," Duffner said. "No one's mentioning what happened at Duke, because Wake Forest gives us more than enough to think about. They beat us at our place in '92, and they probably should have beaten us last year."

A 33-32 comeback victory in Winston-Salem in the 1993 finale and last week's 24-13 upset win at West Virginia have given Maryland two wins in its past four games, but the formulas for success couldn't have been more different.

At Wake Forest last November, the Terps allowed John Leach an ACC-record 329 yards rushing and fell behind 23-0 and 29-12, before Milanovich led them to a 99-yard scoring drive and victory in the final minute. At West Virginia, the defense played its best game since 1991, and Foley rescued the Terps after replacing a struggling Milanovich at the end of the first quarter.

The quarterbacks, who could engage in a season-long battle for playing time, are not the only Terps who want the ball more often.

Allen Williams is coming off the best game by a Maryland running back in two years. Three different Terps wide receivers have been atop the ACC in receptions in the past 11 months. At West Virginia, Maryland completed a pass to a tight end for the first time since 1992.

"There are definitely a lot of weapons in this offense," said Russ Weaver, the leading receiver in the ACC last year who has 12 catches now. "It's always going to be a problem, getting everyone the ball as much as they want, but as long as we win, everyone's going to be happy."

Weaver and left tackle Steve Ingram said their teammates must be willing to trade statistics for wins.

"This is the most potent offense I've ever played on," Ingram said. "The numbers don't show it, but the numbers were there early last season and we didn't win. Numbers are numbers, and the only one that counts is wins."

Foley, a redshirt sophomore who was named ACC and ECAC Player of the Week, will get his first college start. A win would give the Terps their first streak and .500 record since 1990 -- the only year since 1985 in which Maryland had a winning record and went to a bowl game.

Victory isn't a tall order against Wake Forest (1-2, 0-1), which two weeks ago scraped by Appalachian State, an unranked Division I-AA team, and last week was pummeled by Florida State.

The injury-riddled Demon Deacons have the worst offense in the ACC, but junior quarterback Rusty LaRue will play after leaving the Florida State game with a concussion.

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