Terps warm to Tech task in 13-10 win Stand up for Duffner, seniors in home finale for sparse, chilly crowd

Get revenge, climb to 5-5

Cummings completes career-high 21 passes

November 15, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- There weren't many spectators, but there was a sellout's worth of emotion.

Last night Maryland's football team wanted to get back at Georgia Tech, send off its seniors in style and put out for coach Mark Duffner. The Terps produced on all counts, as their best game of the season stopped the Yellow Jackets, 13-10, before 22,510, the smallest crowd at Byrd Stadium in four years.

Maryland (5-5, 3-4) won for the fourth time in five tries at home this season, and Duffner, whose future in College Park is in jeopardy, elevated his five-year mark to 20-34. Duffner probably needs a winning record to come back next year, and that will be hard since the Terps finish with No. 3 Florida State on Nov. 23.

"Next week we're playing for a winning season," Duffner said. "That's not too bad considering all the focus on this coach. I hope you'll write about the courage of this team. It's special. Tonight's story is about these kids. It's not about me."

The Terps took a 10-3 lead at the half, then got a blocked punt from A. J. Johnson on the Yellow Jackets' first possession of the third quarter. That led to what turned out to be the winning points, a 22-yard field goal by Joe O'Donnell with 11: 05 left in the third quarter.

The crowd was held down in part by the weather, but mostly by a disappointing season for Maryland. On this night, however, the Terps played with inspiration and smarts. They had some likely heroes, and some unlikely ones.

Brian Cummings made the most of his first start against Tech, as the junior quarterback completed a career-high 21 of 29 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown, a 3-yarder to Geroy Simon late in the first half.

Cummings also rushed for a season-high 44 yards.

"Brian was healthy tonight and I think that's been the difference for Maryland all year, that he's been banged up," Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary said, referring to the concussions and shoulder separation that limited Cummings in three of the Terps' five losses. "He was the spark behind the team from an offensive standpoint."

Cummings led the Terps to a 4-0 start last year, but when Maryland went to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech in an ESPN game, he gave way to Scott Milanovich, who had been on an NCAA suspension for gambling. The Yellow Jackets sacked Milanovich six times and rolled to a 31-3 win, and Maryland plummeted to a 6-5 record.

"We were embarrassed in that game, so there was a real focus to come back and play very hard tonight," Duffner said.

Tech never sacked Cummings last night, as his offensive line gave him time to pass and opened some big holes for Brian Underwood, who rushed for 73 yards.

Underwood's 32-yard run to the 2-yard line set up the Terps' touchdown in the second quarter and a 10-3 halftime lead.

"There were a lot of things going on in this one," Cummings said. "We haven't won in so long. We've had so many letdowns on TV. That had something to do with it.

"There was an obvious revenge factor for what they did to us last year. But really, we just wanted to play our butts off."

Outscored 120-13 and embarrassed four times on network television in the last 14 months, the Terps rose up and ruined someone else's season for a change. Georgia Tech (5-4, 4-4) has to beat Navy next week to become bowl eligible.

Maryland was hardly at full strength. Running back Buddy Rodgers, a junior, didn't suit up because of a thigh injury.

Duffner praised his seniors, but some of them were in the doghouse. Free safety Lamont Gore, one of Duffner's most vocal supporters, was suspended indefinitely for a team violation the coach declined to disclose. Simon, a four-year regular like Gore, spent most of the game on the bench.

Cummings' favorite target was Troy Davidson, a redshirt freshman who saw his playing time drop earlier in the year, when he couldn't hold on to the ball. He matched his season total of three catches on a first-quarter drive that led to O'Donnell's first field goal, and finished with eight catches for 80 yards.

Orlando Strozier, who last month lost his job as the nickel back in the prevent defense, intercepted freshman quarterback Joe Hamilton twice in the last two minutes, the second with 16 seconds left.

Georgia Tech got only a field goal out of three first-half forays into the red zone.

The Yellow Jackets drew within 13-10 on Hamilton's 11-yard pass to sophomore flanker Mike Sheridan with 2: 09 left in the third quarter, but they were kept out of Terps territory the rest of the way.

Duffner has had confidence in his defense all season, but he went out on a limb with his offense, too. Inside seven minutes and faced with a third-and-inches from the Terps' 26-yard line, Cummings was stopped on a sneak. Time out, and time for a decision.

"Coach Duffner asked what I thought," Cummings said of the pivotal fourth-down call. "I heard my linemen in back of me screaming, and I said let's go for it."

Cummings got the first down on a keeper, the Terps ate up some clock, and a few minutes later Duffner and his team walked off the Byrd Stadium turf winners.

"This is the best for me, to go out as a senior like this," said Johnson, the cornerback. "Nobody expected us to win, with all of the problems going on at Maryland."

Georgia Tech 0 3 7 0 -- 10

Maryland 3 7 3 0 -- 13

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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