Terps' turnaround finishes with dead end

Once-promising season doomed by 0-4 collapse

November 23, 1999|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Senior defensive end Peter Timmins was right.

This was not the "same old" Maryland football team.

The 1999 Terrapins had LaMont Jordan, probably the best all-around running back in school history; fiery senior leadership from Timmins, Jamie Wu and Brad Messina; late-season injuries to key starters, such as quarterback Calvin McCall, wide receiver Jason Hatala and linebacker Kevin Bishop; and several close calls that went against them on their home field.

The result was a disappointing 5-6 record after a promising 4-1 start. Four straight losses to end the season left this team devastated.

Jordan put on the most impressive one-game running show in school history Saturday against Virginia, almost willing Maryland into a bowl game with a school-record 306 yards rushing on a career-high 37 carries.

Jordan, a junior, needs 90 yards to pass Charlie Wysocki as Maryland's all-time leading rusher. He broke Wysocki's single-season school rushing record with 1,632 yards this year, finishing with 148 a game, which puts him fifth in the nation this week.

But on Saturday, some questionable clock management by Maryland on third-and-eight at its 40-yard line with 1: 27 left in the game, Virginia trailing 30-27 and out of timeouts, enabled the Cavaliers to get the ball back with enough time to drive 76 yards for a winning 20-yard touchdown pass from Dan Ellis to Billy McMullen in a 34-30 victory.

Timmins, Wu, Messina and the rest of the Maryland seniors, including defensive standouts Delbert Cowsette and Erwyn Lyght, had to walk off a college football field for the last time without a winning season.

The fate of those seniors weighed as heavily on Jordan's mind as anything else that happened Saturday.

"No matter where we go next year for a bowl game," Jordan said, "I'll be sitting there and thinking about those guys and how sad it was they never got a chance to go to a bowl game. All those seniors got together and vowed to work their butts off all year to have a winning season, and it was so close so many times, but we never could get that sixth win."

It seemed as if win No. 6 would come as soon as Oct. 30 against Duke at Byrd Stadium, when Jordan raced 61 yards to the Duke 1-foot line with a little more than 12 minutes left in the game. The Terps were already ahead 19-17.

But the officials nullified the run with a controversial holding penalty against tight end John Waerig. Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden was so upset that he publicly complained for the first time in three years about an official's call and asked the Atlantic Coast Conference to review it.

The Terps never received a response from the league.

To add insult to injury on the Waerig call, the officials came back five plays later in the same series to call back an apparent 29-yard touchdown pass from McCall to Hatala.

The officials ruled that Hatala stepped out of bounds at the Duke 10. Veteran observers could not recall the last time they had seen a home team get the short end of nearly back-to-back close calls that cost scoring chances.

Several Maryland players said such calls would never go against a winning program, like Florida State, but were indicative of the Terps' losing image.

NOTE: Virginia's cause Saturday was helped by redshirt freshman wide receiver Tavon Mason (Woodlawn), who caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Ellis in the first quarter for a 17-0 lead. It was Mason's first touchdown catch of the season. He finished the regular season with 12 receptions for 131 yards.

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