Testaverde gives Ravens running start Quarterback scrambles for 42 yards, gets team's ground game in gear

September 02, 1996|By Kevin Langbaum | Kevin Langbaum,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The Ravens may have found a new solution to their struggling running game -- and he has been in the backfield all along.

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde scrambled his way to 42 yards on eight rushes, including a 9-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter.

If not for 3 yards lost on the kneel-downs on the game's final three plays, he would have been the team's leading rusher.

"We're going to put Vinny in the backfield," running backs coach Al Lavan joked. "Well, maybe we should keep him where he is."

Testaverde looked more like a fullback on one run in the fourth quarter. He cut up the middle for a 16-yard gain, knocking over safety Lorenzo Lynch along the way.

"I think Vinny surprised a lot of people," coach Ted Marchibroda said. "He did a good job running the football. We've always said a quarterback has to be mentally and physically tough. I think we saw the physical toughness in Vinny today."

The rest of the running game got off to a slow start against the Raiders' talented front four. Starting halfback Earnest Byner gained 14 yards on five carries in the first half.

"This is a tough football team," Marchibroda said. "That front four of theirs is as tough as anybody's in the league. So you don't expect to run for a great deal of yardage."

In the second half, some holes opened in the Raiders' defense, which had tired against the Ravens' no-huddle offense. Byner finished with 43 yards on 14 carries and fullback Carwell Gardner, who usually just watched Marchibroda's no-huddle offense as a member of the Buffalo Bills, gained 16 yards on five carries, all in the second half.

"Gardner's going to run the ball," Lavan said. "Throughout his career he has not run the ball much. But he can be a very effective runner."

The Ravens finished with 95 rushing yards, 57 of them in the second half. "It took us awhile to get going," Gardner said. "We didn't really run very much at first; we were doing a little passing."

The Ravens rushed only 10 times in the first half while the offense geared more toward the air attack. But they took advantage of the weary Raiders' defense in the second half, rushing 20 times, with Byner carrying most of the load.

Byner, who was named the starter a week ago, scored his 53rd career rushing touchdown on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.

"We knew it was going to be a struggle," he said. "But we hoped we'd be able to wear them down and have some success."

Leroy Hoard, who started the four preseason games but was benched in favor of Byner, gained 7 yards on only two carries. He played in only one series, in the second quarter.

"All four of the backs we have are going to contribute," Lavan said. "I think it takes time not only to coordinate the running game, but to be effective at it. It's going to be a slow improvement process."

Pub Date: 9/02/96

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