Henderson in middle of Terps' domination of E. Michigan attack

Maryland notebook

Linebacker again catalyst as Eagles average 2 yards

hit, TD show Gary is fine

College Football

September 09, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - As the middle linebacker for the Maryland Terrapins, junior E.J. Henderson is supposed to be a disruptive force.

In last night's 50-3 rout over Eastern Michigan, the junior from Aberdeen High School led a nasty Terps defense that shut down running lanes constantly and harassed Eagles quarterback Troy Edwards relentlessly. Eastern Michigan averaged just 2.1 yards per play and produced only 124 yards and nine first downs, most of which were surrendered by the Terps' defensive backups.

Henderson, 6 feet 2, 238 pounds, was Maryland's leading tackler last year with 109, despite missing a game with a sprained knee. Last night, he was in the middle of the action as usual, finishing with a team-high eight tackles.

"It never looks like he's happy. That's my type of guy," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of Henderson. "He's the heart and soul of our defense. He's the leader. He's the catalyst. He's the guy who inspires them."

Henderson plugged holes in the middle and fed off a dominating defensive line by springing into the Eastern Michigan backfield and chasing down Eagles from behind. A week after leading Maryland with 12 tackles against North Carolina, Henderson was pretty much unblockable again.

Gary removes doubts

If there was any lingering doubt about wide receiver Guilian Gary's full recovery from a sprained neck 19 days ago, he erased it last night.

Gary, who was hospitalized overnight after falling limp on the practice field but returned to start the season opener, hurt Eastern Michigan with six catches for 76 yards, including his first touchdown of the season that gave the Terps a 19-0 lead with 6:22 left in the half.

Shortly after that, Gary took a vicious hit by Kenny Philpot after running up to catch a short punt by David Rysko. Gary bounced up.

"Did you see the hit that I took? Since the injury, all I've heard is what will happen if he's hit?" Gary said. "I wanted to show that I'm back."

Gary caught a pass on each of Maryland's first two possessions, then enjoyed some key moments as the Terps blew the game open late in the first half.

He finished a 10-play, 58-yard drive with 6:22 left by torching cornerback Michael Woods and catching a 19-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill in the right corner of the end zone.

Gary began Maryland's next possession with receptions of 13 and 11 yards, moving the ball to the Eastern Michigan 28. Two plays later, tailback Bruce Perry's 24-yard touchdown run made it 27-0, and the rout was on.

Okanlawon steps up

Senior cornerback Tony Okanlawon was a much-maligned player coming into the season, often criticized for playing too soft in coverage and not reacting to the ball quickly enough.

Last night, Okanlawon intercepted his second pass of the season, deflected two other passes and chipped in two tackles. He was even on the field with the second unit in the fourth quarter, after backup Denard Wilson left with cramps.

Okanlawon, who has played in 33 games and started 22 in his career, had one interception coming into 2001.

Crowded house

With last night's announced crowd of 42,105, Maryland has exceeded attendance of 40,000 in back-to-back home games for the first time since 1995. And Friedgen wants more, starting with next week's game against West Virginia.

"It's going to be like old times," he said. "We need to get this place where it's cooking, if I have to go from dorm to dorm, fraternity to fraternity, alumni houses ... it will be a sellout."

No salute for Navy

Friedgen was asked to comment on Georgia Tech's 70-7 victory yesterday over Navy. Friedgen is Georgia Tech's former offensive coordinator.

"My first thought was why won't Navy play us?" Friedgen said.

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