Terps' Duffner savors sweetest win Embattled coach revels in silencing Georgia Tech and his critics for a day

November 16, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Last month, Mark Duffner had to explain one of the most bitter defeats of his 22 years in coaching.

Thursday night, he reveled in his sweetest victory ever. Amid speculation that it would be Duffner's final appearance as Maryland's coach at Byrd Stadium, the Terps finally came through on national television and upset Georgia Tech, 13-10.

"I can't remember a sweeter win than this one," Duffner said. "My first year at Holy Cross [1986], we beat Army the week after they beat Tennessee. That was pretty special. When you consider all that went into this one, it's just as satisfying."

Maryland (5-5, 3-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) had plenty of inspiration. It was the final home game for the seniors, the Terps were embarrassed by the Yellow Jackets on ESPN last year, and the scrutiny of Duffner increased during a stretch in which the Terps went 2-5.

The loss that Duffner rues the most was to North Carolina State, a 34-8 shocker on Oct. 5 that crushed the Terps' bowl hopes.

Junior quarterback Brian Cummings was unavailable that day in part because he had been rushed into action the week before at West Virginia and aggravated a slight shoulder separation. The what-ifs about this season only increased after Cummings played superbly against Georgia Tech.

"When you see him play, you know what he means to our team," Duffner said. "When your quarterback has been out of the lineup as much as Brian has, that's going to hurt."

The Terps, rated 104th in the nation in yards per game, were limited to no more than one touchdown for the 10th time in their last 17 games, but they gained 374 yards, their second-best total in an ACC game this year, and had scoring drives of 82 and 76 yards.

Duffner said right tackle John Feugill, a sophomore, played his best game ever.

The going will be tougher in the 1996 finale, as the Terps finish with No. 3 Florida State at Pro Player Park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., next Saturday.

Duffner's five-year record is 20-34, and he needs a monumental upset to avoid his fourth losing season. He and athletic director Debbie Yow will not discuss the specifics of his contract, which is guaranteed through 1997, until after the season, but there are indications he needs a winning record to avoid being fired.

Duffner won't see his team again until tomorrow, and by then he'll be ready with some references to successful underdogs of the past.

Some of his players already are talking about it.

"Look at what happened to Michigan last week," said center Erik Greenstein, alluding to the then-ninth-ranked Wolverines' loss to a 3-5 Purdue team that, coincidence or not, was inspired by the resignation of its coach, Jim Colletto.

Pub Date: 11/16/96

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