Terps take first steps for Vanderlinden Maryland hands coach his initial victory, 24-21, by surviving Temple rally

September 28, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- Ron Vanderlinden's first win at Maryland was also one of the most bizarre games in Terps history.

Maryland held off Temple, 24-21, in a nonconference game last night, thanks to the running of LaMont Jordan and Brian Underwood, a big-play defense that featured free safety Lewis Sanders and a mess of mistakes by the Owls. They displayed why they have had one of major-college football's worst programs in the 1990s.

Temple coach Ron Dickerson took a field goal off the scoreboard in the third quarter, and the Owls lost a fumble 1 yard away from TTC the winning touchdown, with 4: 28 remaining. It wasn't against Nebraska or Notre Dame, but it was sweet enough for Vanderlinden, a first-year head coach who had been an assistant with championship teams at Colorado and Northwestern.

"It's not the weirdest game I've ever been involved in, but it wasn't easy," Vanderlinden said after his team was aided by seven Temple turnovers.

The oddities weren't restricted to the Owls (1-4). There was a laugh track on the public address system after Underwood lost a fumble in the fourth quarter. The Terps (1-3) faced a fourth-and-47 play, played without several senior starters and lived to talk about building a win streak Saturday against Duke.

All in all, it was football by Fellini, not Pop Warner.

The Owls begged to be blown out in the first half, when they threw three interceptions -- all to Sanders -- muffed a punt return and failed to get off a punt. But Maryland struggled to put away even an opponent that was intent on defeating itself.

The Terps got what proved to be the winning touchdown on a 3-yard run by Underwood late in the third quarter. It was set up by a lucky bounce. What appeared to be an incomplete screen pass instead was a lateral that caromed off the artificial turf and into the hands of Jordan, who gained 13 yards to the 3.

Jordan gained a Maryland freshman record 135 yards rushing, ** and Underwood gained 114.

Temple drew within a field goal with an 80-yard drive and a 3-yard touchdown run by Stacey Mack with 11: 16 remaining. The Owls again moved into scoring range on their next possession, but quarterback Pat Bonner pulled away from center too early at the 1 on a play that could have won the game.

"It was a quarterback sneak, and it didn't go right," Bonner said. "I dropped the ball. I practice it every day."

Defensive tackle Anthony Jenkins, a junior-college transfer who finally became academically eligible this year, recovered the loose ball, and sophomore cornerback Troy Davidson intercepted a Bonner pass with 40 seconds remaining to clinch the Terps' first victory since they beat Georgia Tech last November.

"You can call it luck; I'll call it a win," junior linebacker Eric Barton said.

The Terps have experienced a wide range of major-college football in their two road games. Two weeks after they were dissected at No. 4 Florida State before a hostile crowd in Tallahassee. They played before only 12,872 at Penn's poorly-lit Franklin Field last night.

The Owls were in the dark even before the sun set on the 6 p.m. start. But their offense, which picked up just two first downs in the first 25 minutes, finally came alive just about the time the Terps might have begun to doubt themselves.

No lead is too secure for Maryland, which wasted a 14-0 advantage on Ohio in its opener. Considering all of the blunders that Temple committed in the first half and the fact that their offense hadn't produced a second-half touchdown since last October, the Terps had to be distressed over the 17-7 advantage they took into the break.

A punt that never was gave Maryland possession at the Owls' 10-yard line, and on third down from the 3, senior quarterback Brian Cummings rolled right and threw the ball 40 yards across the field for a touchdown to redshirt freshman Omar Cheeseboro with 7: 58 remaining in the first half.

It was the only time the Terps executed in the red zone in the first 30 minutes, as their shortcomings on offense inside their opponent's 20 kept the Owls in the game.

Ten minutes into the game, Maryland had a third-and-goal from the Temple 1, but two side-stepping runs by Jordan went nowhere, and the Owls took over.

Sanders' second interception gave Maryland a first down at the Owls' 15. But again, the Terps couldn't score. On fourth down from the 20, junior Brad Rhodes was wide left on a 37-yard field-goal attempt.

Maryland broke on top with 2: 40 remaining in the first quarter with a touchdown on the longest run of Underwood's career, 37 yards, behind right guard Pat Ward and right tackle John Feugill. The lead grew to 10-0 on a 35-yard field goal by Rhodes, which was set up by Sanders' first interception.

Temple finally showed a pulse with a 67-yard touchdown drive, which was pushed along by a late hit by linebacker Erwyn Lyght. The Owls momentarily drew within 17-10 on 26-yard field goal. But when Maryland was offside, Dickerson took the penalty and a fourth-and-one from the 3.

Sanders beat fullback Stacey Mack to the outside, the Terps took over on downs and did just enough to win the first game between the schools.

"I look like I feel, like crap," said Dickerson, who had worked with Vanderlinden at Colorado in the early 1980s. "You can lose to Virginia Tech and Penn State and walk away with your head up. Losing a game like this, it's tough."

Next for Maryland

Opponent: Duke

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Record: 2-2

Yesterday: Defeated Navy, 26-17.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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