Harrison ready for show to begin

Terps' freshman QB unfazed that 1st start is vs. No. 1 Florida St.

November 12, 1999|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Hollywood scriptwriters might not even try to pull off a story like this one.

It just seems to be too much of a stretch. Almost fairy-tale like.

But 19-year-old freshman Maryland quarterback Latrez Harrison seems undaunted by the task he is facing tomorrow in Tallahassee, Fla. He even says, "What more could you ask for?"

So here it goes for the youngster who is considered by many the Terps' quarterback of the future. He reportedly has thrown the football as far as 76 yards.

Harrison, replacing the injured Calvin McCall (medial collateral ligament tear), will start his first collegiate game against the No. 1 team in the country, Florida State (9-0), which has one of the most powerful programs in NCAA history and presents a hostile environment with its 80,000 fans in a stadium where the Seminoles have lost only once in the 1990s.

That lone setback came by a 17-16 score to Miami in 1991. The only other nick on Florida State's home record in the 1990s was a 31-31 tie with Florida in 1994.

Florida State has been among the top four teams in the final Associated Press poll for an NCAA-record 12 seasons; has the nation's longest home winning streak with 28 straight; has not been beaten in the last 45 games at Doak Campbell Stadium; has a 16-5-1 bowl game record; will capture an eighth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a win over Maryland; and has had 13 first-round NFL draft picks in the 1990s.

That's just for starters.

Harrison has only been on the field this season in a mop-up role, playing behind a less-than-impressive second-team offensive line which was guilty of a holding call on the rookie's longest pass completion of the year, a 55-yarder against North Carolina.

The big, strong-armed 6-foot-3, 214-pounder from Atlanta has also been hampered in his few appearances by receivers dropping passes and falling down. That has made his statistics in eight series over four games look horrendous: 1-for-13 for 13 yards and three interceptions with a rating of minus-30.1.

Adding to the pressure is the fact that the 3: 30 p.m. game will be televised regionally by ABC-TV and the Terps (5-4) need a respectable showing to remain in contention for an Aloha Bowl bid.

Harrison, whose mother, Benjenia, will be among 18 family members traveling from Atlanta to Tallahassee, is no stranger to Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden and his three sons, Tommy, Terry and Jeff.

All the Bowdens got to knowhow powerful Harrison's arm is when they watched him throw in the Bowden Quarterback Camp at Auburn in the summer of 1998.

"I threw a ball 72 yards and it landed right at Bobby Bowden's feet," said Harrison. "He just laughed. He is a good guy, but I just didn't get the same kind of treatment at Florida State as I received at Maryland during the recruiting process. All the Maryland coaches knew my name. And now coach [Ron] Vanderlinden talks to me at least twice a week and wants to know how I'm doing. I don't know if that would happen at other schools."

Also, adding to the suspense tomorrow will be that Harrison's older brother, Tennessee Titans linebacker Gregory Favors, will be watching the game on television.

Favors, 25, is in his second year in the NFL and played a major role in shaping Harrison's career.

"Gregory and I grew up together and he's the one that got me on my first football team," said Harrison. "And he's the one who told me to stick with football in college because he said I had a great arm. I was going to Kentucky to play basketball, but Gregory told me I could play basketball later. Gregory was a quarterback in high school but became a linebacker, safety and cornerback in college at Mississippi State."

Favors was drafted in the fourth round by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998 and had a pretty good rookie season, making 23 tackles as a linebacker and 16 stops on special teams. But he was released this year in training camp by the Chiefs and picked up by the Titans.

"I'm proud of Gregory," said Harrison. "He and other people have told me I have an NFL arm."

That powerful arm has made him something of a celebrity around the Maryland campus, as other students turn around to look at Harrison every time they walk by.

"People come up to the football building and ask `Who is Latrez?' They ask, `Where is he?' said Harrison. "They want to meet me. They've heard a lot about me, being from Atlanta. I want to go around and meet them all when I get a chance."

Even Maryland's offensive left guard, Mike George, was shocked the day he saw Harrison throw the ball 76 yards while "playing around in Byrd Stadium before we went to N.C. State."

"Mike George said, `I can't believe you just threw the ball that far,' " said Harrison. "It feels great to hear people talk about me like that and say things like comparing my arm to Boomer's [Esiason] and [John] Elway's."

NOTE: Maryland's home finale Nov. 20 against Virginia has been moved up to a noon start. The game will be televised regionally by Jefferson-Pilot.

Next for Terps

Opponent: No. 1 Florida State

Site: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.

When: Tomorrow, 3: 30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 2/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Flordia State by 33

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