Terps are dubiously distinct in the ACC Winless Maryland is last in nation in total offense

September 24, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Ron Vanderlinden wants Maryland to stand apart from the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but this isn't what he had in mind.

Heading into Saturday's nonconference game against Temple at Philadelphia's Franklin Field, the Terps (0-3, 0-2) are the only winless team in the ACC, and statistically they have the nation's least productive attack. With an average of 189.3 yards per game, Maryland ranks last among major-college football's 112 teams in total offense.

It hasn't helped that the Terps just played the nation's fourth- and fifth-ranked teams, and that Florida State and North Carolina returned many of the players who allowed them to stand third and second, respectively, in total defense last year.

Maryland is a 1 1/2 -point favorite to beat Temple in the first meeting between the two schools, and that's puzzling. The Owls have their best team in coach Ron Dickerson's five years, and in the past three weeks they have beaten Boston College and scared Virginia Tech, the only ranked team in the Big East.

Vanderlinden talked about the Owls' running game, which features tailback Elmarko Jackson and fullback Stacey Mack, but his biggest concern should be an offense that hasn't produced a second-half touchdown since last October.

"I think it's a combination of defenses adjusting to us," Vanderlinden said, "and part of who we are right now. We're not a team that's gone out and played hard for 60 minutes. We need to finish a game with the same fervor that we started it with."

Maryland's second-half meekness reached a new low in the North Carolina loss, as the Tar Heels outgained the Terps 224 yards to 4 over the last 23 minutes.

"As an offense, we can't get down or upset," said junior wide receiver Bruce James, who is learning his third system in as many years. "We've got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot."

Must win?

Vanderlinden wouldn't go so far as to say that the Terps are in a must-win situation, but junior middle linebacker Eric Barton would.

"In order for us to be the team we want to be, we have to win this game," Barton said. "We know we have a good team, we just haven't played up to our ability yet."

After facing a steady diet of Parade and USA Today All-Americans the last two weeks, Barton was looking forward to facing a team that has talent more in line with Maryland's.

"I'm sure we're not going to have the athletes we faced the last two weeks," Barton said.

Miscellaneous

Tailback Buddy Rodgers, who missed the North Carolina game with a rib injury, will play against Temple. Wide receiver Kendrick Walton, out the last month with a chipped bone in his left elbow, resumed practice today. Senior defensive end Eric Ogbogu will return to action after missing the second half with a strained shoulder muscle. Tight end coach Bob Heffner lettered as an offensive lineman for Temple in 1976-78. It will be the Terps' first game north of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1994, when they lost at Syracuse. Maryland's four-game losing streak over two seasons is its longest since 1993, when it opened 0-6.

Pub Date: 9/24/97

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