Cavs drive Terps to zero hour, 45-0 Home finale is dud for 20 UM seniors

November 02, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- On the day after Halloween, Maryland masqueraded as a college football team.

The process that first-year coach Ron Vanderlinden has referred to appeared to be stuck in reverse yesterday, as the Terps were ripped by Virginia, 45-0.

At least there weren't many witnesses. Maybe half of the 23,479 people who had tickets for the Atlantic Coast Conference game showed up at rainy Byrd Stadium.

If this is the weakest Virginia team that George Welsh has had in 10 years, as some longtime Cavaliers observers say, where does that leave Maryland?

The Terps (2-7, 1-5) looked as lost as this season. Tailbacks didn't know the ball was being thrown their way. Linebackers were out of position on bootlegs. The coaching staff sent 10 players out for a punt return. The eighth Maryland penalty wiped away its only points, albeit what would have been a meaningless last-minute touchdown.

Vanderlinden shrugged off the setback and said his team was prepared. He said that he had experienced worse as an assistant at Colorado and Northwestern, but there was more remorse from 20 seniors whose last home game was one final embarrassment.

"This is probably the lowest I've ever been here," said defensive end Eric Hicks, one of Maryland's three captains. "I never thought it would get this bad."

It was Virginia's biggest win ever over Maryland, and the Terps' worst loss since they were pounded by Penn State, 70-7, in 1993, when the fifth-year seniors were first-year freshmen.

This effort ranked down there with that Penn State blowout; a season-opening dud at Duke in 1994; a hapless effort at Louisville in 1995; and last year's 34-8 loss to a bad N.C. State team, which happens to be the next opponent.

Vanderlinden took over a program that was a combined .500 (11-11) over the past two seasons, and the Terps have come nowhere close to realizing the bowl aspirations he espoused in the preseason.

"Obviously, this is not the way that any of us would want to choreograph this game, but I'm not the least bit concerned or fazed," Vanderlinden said. "It's not easy or fun going through what we are, but I've been through worse. We need to continue the business of recruiting and move forward."

Vanderlinden ripped into his defense when it got to 14-0, but by the fourth quarter, when a reserve tackle somehow failed to sack second-team quarterback Dan Ellis, all the coach could offer was a perplexed smile.

The Terps were balanced. Both the offense and defense were lousy.

Maryland continued its tradition of inept offense against the Cavaliers, even though Virginia All-ACC safety Anthony Poindexter was at home with an injury and Jamie Sharper, et al., have moved to the NFL.

It was the first time Maryland had been shut out in 16 games.

The Terps were limited to 127 yards, their fewest since they faced Florida State. Fifty-six of those came on the game's last possession, when reserve quarterback Ken Mastrole worked with the first-team offense against Virginia's scrubs. Mastrole replaced Brian Cummings midway through the third quarter.

There was a quarterback controversy brewing for the Cavaliers. Some fans wanted Aaron Brooks benched in favor of Ellis, a freshman, but Maryland made the redshirt junior look like a Heisman Trophy candidate. Brooks completed 11 of 16 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns.

Virginia (5-3, 4-2) came in with the worst third-down conversion rate in the ACC (26 of 91, 28.6 percent). The Cavaliers, however, converted their first four third downs on a game-opening, 18-play touchdown drive that consumed nearly nine minutes. By the time it was 31-0, Virginia had converted nine of 12 third downs

Virginia gained 473 yards, easily a season-high.

"I was scared to death coming into this game," Virginia's Welsh said. "We did not have 12 guys who could practice on defense all week. I didn't think that we were capable of playing that well with all of these guys hurt. This is the best we have played all year, at least for three quarters."

Despite the lopsided score, the game still had an early what-if.

Virginia became the third consecutive Maryland opponent to score on its opening possession, but Brooks' 12-yard touchdown pass to Germane Crowell on the left sideline was telegraphed. The play was Maryland's season in microcosm. Strong safety Henry Baker, with an open field in front of him, was a step late on his interception try.

Fullback Anthony Southern, who had 50 yards rushing on the season, gained 48 on a touchdown drive that finished with a 7-yard run by Brooks on a broken play. Five plays later, Brooks faked out Maryland and the television cameras on a first-down bootleg that went 59 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 3: 37 left in the half.

"Going into the half, [Maryland] gave up a little bit," Southern said.

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