No-brainer, no controversy: 5-0 Cummings perfect pick

October 08, 1995|By John Eisenberg

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Quarterback controversy? What quarterback controversy?

Brian Cummings is 4-0 as a starter for the Maryland Terrapins and 1-0 in relief after replacing an ineffective Scott Milanovich in the second quarter and leading the Terps to a 9-6 win over Wake Forest last night.

Milanovich? He has a better arm, better credentials and an 0-1 record. And he was working on 0-2 and a horrifying upset loss last night before Maryland coach Mark Duffner finally yanked him out of desperation and Cummings bailed him out.

Does anyone out there see this as a tough decision? It isn't.

Cummings is getting the job done. Milanovich isn't.

Even the Terp players are admitting now that they're better off with Cummings.

Maybe it was a tough decision for Duffner before the Georgia Tech game, but it's a no-brainer now.

L Cummings should be this team's starting quarterback. Period.

It is his team, his time, his turn.

"Brian won the first four games and the team tends to really rally around him," Terps receiver Jermaine Lewis said last night. "I guess we tend to have a lot of confidence with him in there."

It's a shame for Milanovich, but enough with holding the entire program hostage just to satisfy his concerns -- and those of the NFL scouts he wants to impress. There is just too much at stake for the Terps, who are 5-1 and headed for a bowl after being down for years.

Besides, Cummings isn't just the emotional choice anymore, he's also the rational choice.

He's better.

Milanovich, clearly pressing, doesn't resemble the quarterback who set 12 school records coming into this season. He looks rushed, even when there is no reason for it. His throws aren't consistently accurate.

Duffner deserves credit for gutting it up and yanking him last night, all but admitting a mistake was made 12 days ago. But it wasn't a tough call. By the time he was pulled, Milanovich had quarterbacked the Terps for 15 possessions (four last night) and failed to deliver a touchdown. Wake was up, 3-0.

Duffner didn't deserve his salary if he didn't turn at that point to Cummings, the best undefeated starter sitting on anyone's bench anywhere.

The change in the Terps was immediate and noticeable. Playing with a sore foot, a sore shoulder and a swagger, Cummings turned the game around.

The Terps immediately began to move the ball again, primarily because Cummings gives them balance. They can't run with Milanovich because the plays develop too slowly and the defenders know Milanovich is not a running threat, so deceptions don't work.

Fact is, the Terp coaches just abandon the run when Milanovich is playing, settling for a one-dimensional offense even weak Wake could stop.

Cummings, a running threat, gives the Terps a two-back offense. As soon as he entered the game last night -- the Terps fans gave him a standing ovation -- the Terps began to use the counter and misdirection plays used during their 4-0 start. Their run-pass balance returned, as Cummings also hit numerous short passes.

Cummings drove the offense 91 yards in nine plays for a field goal that tied the score at the end of the first half, then 72 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown that gave the Terps their first lead in two weeks. The score remained 9-3 when Joe O'Donnell missed the extra point.

No, not everything went swimmingly against a poor Wake team that lost at home to Appalachian State earlier this season. The Terps failed to score on their next two series and watched Wake drive downfield early in the fourth quarter, aiming for the lead.

But the Terps defense held and Wake settled for a field goal that cut the Maryland lead to 9-6 with 9:10 to play. That was when Cummings really delivered. Deftly mixing runs and passes, he kept the ball for more than eight minutes. Wake didn't touch it again until 67 seconds remained. The game was over.

Four times on that drive, Cummings faced third down situations, and four times he succeeded. The most daunting was a third-and-16 at the Terps 25; Cummings completed a long pass over the middle to Mancel Johnson. Geroy Simon recovered the ball when Johnson fumbled.

The Terps didn't score on the drive because Duffner, curiously, opted to go for it on fourth down from the eight. No matter. Cummings' essence was summed up on that drive. He is a winner. At the risk of cliche, he is one of those players with a knack for doing what it takes to win.

He also is clearly the leader of this team. The players respond to him much more emotionally than they do to Milanovich. It is a team of third-year players and Cummings is one of them, and the pieces just fit when he is in there.

It was no coincidence that the defense began playing better after Cummings entered the game.

"There's a different mentality when Brian comes in," linebacker Ratcliff Thomas said. "He's the underdog. Scott is the glamour boy."

Indeed, Milanovich is an accomplished quarterback who might have a pro future.

But the Terps have a special chemistry going with Cummings in 1995.

Having tinkered with it once, and paid dearly for doing so, Duffner should just leave it alone now.

Cummings is his quarterback.

! Isn't it obvious?

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