Motivated by vision, Terp eyeing an upset Jordan sees win over Florida State

October 01, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- When LaMont Jordan steps on the field Saturday to run the football against Florida State, he will carry a powerful secret weapon.

It will be an image of the Byrd Stadium scoreboard flashing this final score: Maryland 28, Florida State 14.

That's right.

Jordan has already seen that 28-14 score posted at Byrd Stadium, and he can't get it out of his mind.

"It sent chills through my body," said the shifty tailback of the scene last December during a recruiting weekend. "I was with a recruit and walking through the stadium when I saw it."

Jordan said the tactic typifies coach Ron Vanderlinden's approach. "He says the way you beat Florida State is to first believe you can do it and visualize it."

The sophomore said he and his teammates have also drawn confidence for No. 9 Florida State from N. C. State's 24-7 victory over the Seminoles three weeks ago.

"That showed us Florida State was vulnerable and could be beaten," said Jordan. "They gamble a lot on defense and it's just a matter of catching them in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, their quarterback [Chris Weinke] threw six interceptions in that loss. It not only gave us hope but it helped all the other [Atlantic Coast Conference] teams believe they could do it."

If Maryland (2-2) hopes to pull off what would go down as one of the biggest upsets in school history, Jordan realizes he will have to play the game of his life against the Seminoles (3-1).

"I'll probably be getting a call from my high school coach this week and he'll remind me that big players have to step up in big games," said Jordan, referring to Suitland High's Mike Lynch. "I realize that and I'm ready.

"I know Florida State is coming after me because I scored that touchdown on them last year. I got hurt the next time I carried the ball and they were saying, 'Get up, No. 15, get up.' You could tell they wanted our best players on the field. What fun is it to beat up on somebody's third team?"

Jordan, who scored on a 44-yard run in last year's 50-7 loss to the Seminoles, is certainly Maryland's marquee player on offense. He has been nominated for the Doak Walker Award, honoring the nation's top running back.

He led ACC freshmen in rushing yards (689), attempts (159) and all-purpose yards (920) and finished second in the voting for ACC Rookie of the Year honors.

The muscular 5-foot-11 player has breakaway speed to the outside, the size and strength to run over people inside and a knack for eluding tacklers.

"LaMont proved he could be as good as anybody in the country against Temple," Vanderlinden said of last week's win. "He ran with authority. He moved the pile and turned the corner several times. When he comes through the line and buries his shoulder with those 220 pounds, he is hard to bring down. He has enough wriggle to make people miss."

Jordan not only made Temple miss a lot during a career-high 138-yard performance on 22 carries, he twice made the Owls look virtually helpless on touchdown runs of 26 and 27 yards.

Jordan simply stepped outside and then turned on the speed he used in the spring of 1997 to lead Suitland High to its first Prince George's County track championship in six years. He was clocked at 10.6 in the 100 meters and 21.6 in the 200 meters.

In three games this season, he has 54 carries for 227 yards even though he gained just 1 yard on nine rushes in a 42-20 loss to West Virginia. He missed the season opener with a foot injury that prevented him from practicing at full speed that week.

The game-day decision by Vanderlinden to hold his star player out of the opener against James Madison created a few tense moments between the two.

"I just wish they would have told me before the game. That way I wouldn't have worked myself all up mentally," said Jordan. "I guess they decided they didn't need me because we got off to a 23-0 lead."

Vanderlinden said after the opener that Jordan needed to have a "great week" of practice to regain the starting spot he had as a freshman. "We're not just going to hand him the starting job."

The situation was smoothed over when Jordan put on a show against Virginia as Maryland flirted with an upset. He ran 23 times for 88 yards and caught three passes for 31 yards in a 31-19 loss.

Jordan said: "Some people came up to me before the Virginia game and said Vandy was acting like a jerk with his comments, but I didn't see it that way. He was just doing what a coach has to do. The rules are the rules. If he lets one guy play without practicing enough, he would have to let others play."

Vanderlinden said Jordan seems to be getting the message. "Everybody recognizes LaMont's ability. But he needs to be more assertive in his practice habits."

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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