Terps hope parity is a plus Duke game tonight begins crucial stretch

October 04, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Duke and Wake Forest are closer to a postseason berth than Clemson.

Maryland has a victory that counts toward the NCAA's bowl requirement of six Division I-A wins, and Virginia has none.

As the college football season falls into October, there are some strange goings on in the Atlantic Coast Conference. No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 North Carolina are still in the national championship hunt, but once past the conference's only ranked members, there doesn't appear to be much separating the other teams.

That's good news for the Terps and first-year coach Ron Vanderlinden, who meet Duke at 6 o'clock tonight at Byrd Stadium. The game begins a crucial stretch in which Maryland will play four of five games at home, and if the Terps want to prolong their hope for a winning season, they must win tonight.

After losing its first three, Maryland (1-3, 0-2) finally got Vanderlinden his first win last week against bungling Temple. The Blue Devils (2-2, 0-1) ended the nation's longest losing streak by beating Army and Navy, but Duke coach Fred Goldsmith isn't ready to announce a changing of the guard in the ACC just yet.

"We're not thinking about that [the bowl race] right now," Goldsmith said. "It's early yet. A lot of things haven't unfolded."

Goldsmith has a point. While fans at Clemson and Virginia are antsy about the stumbles their bowl regulars have taken, the Duke and Maryland programs are still taking baby steps.

Check out the youth on the field when the Terps have the ball. Duke starts five sophomores and a freshman on defense, and Maryland has used freshmen at center, flanker, wide receiver and H-back.

The Terps have a miserable conversion rate on third down (32.1 percent) and senior quarterback Brian Cummings is coming off a shaky performance, but he has fond memories of the Blue Devils. He threw for a career-high 299 yards against them in a 41-28 victory at home two years ago.

An assortment of ailments kept Cummings out of Maryland's 22-19 win at Durham last year. Tailback Buddy Rodgers got a career-high 176 yards rushing against Duke last year, but he has missed the past two games with a rib injury, and Vanderlinden sounds reluctant to mess with a rotation that saw both Brian Underwood and LaMont Jordan gain 100 yards last week.

There were only five other 100-yard rushing games in the ACC in September.

"At this point in our development, with who we have at the skill positions, our team has to make a living off the run and play action," Vanderlinden said. "I'm not sure that we're a team which can drop back and move the ball consistently."

The Terps are still finding their way through offensive coordinator Craig Johnson's multiple offense, and it's a look that the Blue Devils already have seen. Vanderlinden and Johnson brought in schemes from Northwestern, which beat Duke, 24-20, on Sept. 13.

The Blue Devils' secondary was burned in losses to N.C. State and Northwestern, but settled down against the option attacks of Army and Navy.

Speaking of the option, Ohio's burned Maryland in its opener, and that's what the Terps must contend with if freshman Spencer Romine starts at quarterback. Goldsmith could go with preseason No. 1 Bobby Campbell, who's back from the knee sprain that knocked him out of the Northwestern game.

Duke already has used four quarterbacks. Maryland has to be ready for the unexpected, which is what the ACC has delivered this year.

ACC standings

%

Conference Overall

.. .. .. .. .. W .. L .. .. Pct .. W .. L .. .. Pct

UNC . .. .. .. 2 .. 0 ... 1.000 .. 4 .. 0 ... 1.000

Fla. St. .. .. 2 .. 0 ... 1.000 .. 3 .. 0 ... 1.000

Ga. Tech .. .. 2 .. 0 ... 1.000 .. 2 .. 1 .. . .667

W. Forest . .. 1 .. 1 .. . .500 .. 2 .. 2 .. . .500

N.C. St. .. .. 1 .. 2 .. . .333 .. 3 .. 2 .. . .600

Clemson ... .. 1 .. 2 .. . .333 .. 2 .. 2 .. . .500

Duke ... .. .. 0 .. 1 .. . .000 .. 2 .. 2 .. . .500

Virginia .. .. 0 .. 1 .. . .000 .. 1 .. 2 .. . .333

Maryland .. .. 0 .. 2 .. . .000 .. 1 .. 3 .. . .250

Today's games

Duke at Maryland, 6 p.m.

Miami (Fla.) at Fla. State, noon

Wake Forest at Virginia, noon

Texas El Paso at Clemson, 1 p.m.

Ga. Tech at B.C., 3: 30 p.m.

North Carolina at TCU, 8: 05 p.m.

Pub Date: 10/04/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.