Terps rush off with win

September 03, 1995|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- Two measly completions.

Three big touchdowns.

One important victory.

Those were Orlando Strozier's numbers in his hasty introduction as a college quarterback. Maryland, a pass-happy outfit the past three seasons, stayed on the ground with Strozier last night, and that necessity brought another departure from the past: a season-opening victory.

For the first time in four seasons under coach Mark Duffner, the Terps began with a win, a solid 29-10 handling of Tulane before 18,159 at the Superdome.

It came after the latest development in the Terps' revolving door at quarterback, as redshirt sophomore Brian Cummings sprained his left ankle late in the first quarter, and they went the rest of the way with Strozier, a redshirt junior who missed all of last season recovering from knee surgery and played cornerback the year before.

Only two of Strozier's seven passes found their mark, but last night it was enough.

Maryland doesn't care that Tulane is probably headed to another 1-10 season. The Terps needed a victory last night to have any shot at a winning season, and they did so only by doing what Duffner likes to call "turning a negative into a positive."

"Some things didn't go our way, and I was pleased with the way our guys handled that adversity," Duffner said. "We had no phones on the sideline for most of the game, our starting quarterback got hurt, and we still won. That says something about our team."

In years past, the Terps' defense has been a sieve, but it shut down the Green Wave and intercepted two passes in the second half, when it looked like the home team was about to come back. Tulane needed 60 minutes to get into the end zone against the Terps last year, and its offense was just as troubled last night.

The run-and-shoot has rewritten the Maryland passing records over the past three years, but 236 of the Terps' 317 yards -- and all four of their touchdowns -- came on the ground last night. With Cummings out, sophomore superbacks Buddy Rodgers and Brian Underwood rushed for 107 and 92 yards, respectively. Strozier had 49 on 15 carries.

The Terps had a 15-0 lead after 20 minutes, but it didn't come easy.

The second touchdown came on a 5-yard run by Strozier -- courtesy of a 35-yard gain by Underwood -- but the offense sputtered in its next four possessions and the defense tired some. When a bad snap from Aaron Henne and a big rush dropped punter Russell Edwards for a 12-yard loss near the end of the third quarter, the Terps were in trouble.

Tulane needed to go only 27 yards for its touchdown, a 15-yard shovel pass from Aley Demarest to John Hubert, which cut the difference to 15-10 with 14:06 to go.

A minute later, Maryland faced third-and-two at its own 32-yard line. Strozier's only completion to that point had resulted in a 1-yard loss, but he found freshman Kendrick Walton in the left flat for an 11-yard gain.

Strozier ran for 8 yards on a fourth-down attempt near midfield. His lack of polish showed when he collided with Rodgers and fell flat on his back on a handoff from the Green Wave 19, but when the superback took it in for the clinching touchdown with 8:47 to go, Strozier bounced up with glee.

"I was nervous the whole time," Strozier said. "When Brian went out, I said to myself, 'I hope he gets up. I hope he's just frustrated.' I told myself it was my responsibility to maintain the lead. I'll take the blame for that stretch when we struggled, but I was able to get going. The pass to Walton was definitely the biggest play of the game."

After an interception by strong safety Lamont Gore, Maryland moved 40 yards on the ground for its third touchdown with Strozier under center, a 3-yard run by Underwood with 2:40 to play.

Maryland entered the game without a proven quarterback, but Duffner was happy with the play of both Cummings and Strozier. Both got bigger roles in the game plan when Scott Milanovich, who holds numerous Maryland passing records, received a four-game suspension for gambling on intercollegiate athletics.

When Cummings left the Superdome laid out on a motorized cart, it looked like Terps fans would see plenty of Strozier during an upcoming three-game stand at renovated Byrd Stadium. The X-rays were negative, however, and Cummings was back on the sidelines in the third quarter. An hour later, he shed his crutches.

"When I went down, I thought it was broke," said Cummings, who was injured while being sacked by Keith Cook. "My foot stayed in the [artificial] turf. They let me walk out of the hospital, and I can put weight on it. I guess that's good news. It feels stronger every minute. I hope I can practice this week."

Cummings was in a groove when he went down. On the play before the injury, he had a string of 10 straight completions stopped.

Seven came on the Terps' previous possession, when they moved 65 yards in 15 plays.

It was a touchdown drive that put his stamp on the run-and-shoot, as several Underwood runs came after Cummings sprinted out and pitched back.

NEXT FOR MARYLAND

Opponent: No. 20 North Carolina

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Saturday, noon

Record: 0-1

1% Yesterday: Lost to Syracuse, 20-9

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