Milanovich breaks silence as Terps go bowl-hunting Record-setting QB to start vs. Virginia

November 10, 1995|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Two days before his last game at Byrd Stadium, Maryland quarterback Scott Milanovich broke a six-week silence with the media.

The most prolific passer in Terps history, Milanovich had been the program's most outspoken player the last two seasons, but he has talked sparingly since last spring. That's when his name was first linked to an internal investigation into gambling that ended with his receiving a four-game suspension.

Milanovich will get his first home start of an abbreviated senior season tomorrow (noon) against Virginia, and yesterday he reflected on a roller-coaster career. He has surpassed all of Boomer Esiason's career passing records, but has been involved in nearly as many controversies as victories.

"I'll probably look back and feel there's probably been some missed opportunities," Milanovich said, "things that didn't go as good as they could have gone. I'll be happy for what's happened, and Maryland has been good to me, but I'm not going to forget what's happened, certainly the last two years.

"I don't believe I'll ever forget it."

Coach Mark Duffner has gone to great lengths to praise Milanovich's leadership, but this was the second straight season in which he was benched.

Coming off of a record-setting sophomore season, Milanovich was replaced in September 1994 by Kevin Foley, but regained the job. This year, redshirt sophomore Brian Cummings led the team to four straight opening victories. Then he took over from a still-rusty Milanovich at Wake Forest on Oct. 7, and started the next two games, shutout losses to Clemson and Louisville.

"It [being benched] probably wasn't as hard as last year," Milanovich said. "Once you've been through something like I went through last year. . . it's not as bad the second time around. You just try to handle it like a man and be a team player. Do what you can, play hard at practice, and hopefully get another chance. I guess that's what happened."

Milanovich last talked to the media Sept. 29, the day after a 31-3 loss to Georgia Tech. That game marked his return to the Terps, and their first defeat after a 4-0 start. Milanovich rarely practiced with the first-team offense in September, and when asked who was to blame for his spotty senior season, he declined to answer.

"I've always been brought up, if you don't have something good to say, then don't say anything," Milanovich said. "The questions were going to be asked about Brian [Cummings] and me, and about how I feel about Coach Duffner's decision. The last thing I wanted to do is to be a distraction to Brian when he had to get ready for a game.

"I will not criticize Coach Duffner. That's basically why I haven't talked," said Milanovich, who still declined to comment last Saturday at North Carolina State, the first Maryland win he has started and finished in 13 months. "It would have made me look like a front-runner; now, all of a sudden, you want to go out and toot your own horn."

Milanovich admitted that there was a time in October when he wished his career at Maryland were over.

"I'm going to be sad [tomorrow] going out there, but I'm going to have mixed emotions about that, too," said Milanovich, who just two weeks ago dealt with the prospect of ending his career on the bench. "There was a time when I wanted it [his college career] to be done.

"Now, I'm playing again. I think I'm ready to take a stab at the next level, but I'm also aware that there are some things I came back for. One of them is a bowl game, and we have two games left to try to get there."

Maryland, which has already matched its best regular-season record since 1985, is trying to get into its first bowl game in five years. A win at Virginia clinched that berth, one of the reasons Milanovich joined a Maryland program that was then headed by Joe Krivak, who now coaches the Cavaliers quarterbacks.

"Playing against Coach Krivak is going to be awkward," Milanovich said. "I'm confident, but that doesn't mean that we're going to tear them apart. If we execute, and the offensive line gives me protection, we're going to move the ball. I've got to throw the ball well for us to win."

Milanovich is coming off his only productive passing day in a Terps win in a year, and even though it came against a weak N.C. State team, he said he never lost confidence in his ability.

"You've got to have confidence in yourself, because a lot of people are going to doubt you," Milanovich said. "People are going to be on this bandwagon or that bandwagon. You just have to know that you can do the job."

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