N.C. St. test is pass/fail for UM

Terps' bowl hopes rest on stopping Barnette with so-so secondary

November 06, 1999|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The odds seem to be stacked against the Maryland football team today as it prepares to meet North Carolina State in virtually a make-or-break game for the 1999 season in terms of a bowl bid for the Terps.

First of all, the somewhat beleaguered Maryland secondary has to figure out how to prevent one of the nation's most mobile quarterbacks, Jamie Barnette, from putting on a passing clinic.

Barnette will obviously be emotionally charged for the noon Maryland test because it will be the final home appearance of a storied career that peaked last year when he guided the Wolfpack to a shocking 24-7 victory over national power Florida State.

The 6-foot, 199-pound senior also will continue an assault on almost all the important career passing records in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He needs one touchdown pass to replace former Florida State standout Danny Kanell as the ACC career leader with 58.

Barnette also is third in career passing yardage with 8,658, and fifth in career total offense with 8,796 yards.

He led the ACC last season in total offense (3,182 yards), which placed him 12th in the nation, and right now he is on a hot streak with 10 touchdown passes in five games.

Need to hear more?

Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden does not.

That's why he is shaking up his defense for Barnette and the Wolfpack (5-4, 2-4). Senior cornerback Renard Cox is being replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Tony Okanlawon, and junior defensive tackle Kris Jenkins is being supplanted by sophomore Charles Hill for the Terps (5-3, 2-3).

Cox was beaten badly for two touchdowns last week by Duke's Richmond Flowers, and Jenkins hasn't been able to give the team much of a pass rush all season.

"That long explosion touchdown play to Flowers [69-yarder in the second quarter for a 7-3 lead] was really just carelessness," Vanderlinden said. "Renard just fell asleep. He did everything wrong he could have done. The guy got behind him and he gave up the big play. We kind of took turns making coverage mistakes against Duke.

"Coming into the season, I did anticipate that we'd match up better with passing teams. But the opposite has been true. We've played the run better."

The final straw for Vanderlinden was watching Duke's unheralded Spencer Romine roll up 404 yards passing in last week's 25-22 loss.

It came just two weeks after Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler had given the Terps nightmares with 435 yards total offense, and four weeks after Georgia Tech's Joe Hamilton had erupted for 474 yards total offense.

There have been extenuating circumstances for the collapse of the secondary in the team's three losses this season.

Junior strong safety Tony Jackson (Wilde Lake) has missed the past seven games with a broken ankle and most likely will receive a medical hardship redshirt, giving him two more years of eligibility.

Jackson has the size (6-2) and speed to match up against the top ACC wide receivers. His replacement, Rod Littles, is 5-11.

Okanlawon and free safety Shawn Forte have also been slowed by injuries this season, leaving junior cornerback Lewis Sanders as the only constant in the secondary.

Meanwhile, the offense received a setback Wednesday when starting junior wide receiver Jason Hatala was discovered to have a broken little finger on his right hand.

Hatala, a throwback who genuinely loves to practice, nearly broke down and cried because he was forced to miss his first workout in the three years he has been at Maryland. His practice streak had reached 235, counting two years of spring workouts.

When Hatala was told he could not play today against the Wolfpack, he refused at first to accept it. The 5-10, 173-pound speedster will miss the first game of his collegiate career after playing in 30 straight.

"I'll keep going to doctors until I hear what I want to hear," Hatala said. "I've seen them tape and wrap up other players so they could play. But the trouble for me is I need my hands to catch the ball."

Terps today

Opponent: N.C. State

Site: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.

Time: Noon

TV/Radio: Ch. 24/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 1 1/2

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