Perry states his case for No. 1

Maryland back emerges from obscurity to become leading runner in nation

College Football

September 24, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

From back in the pack to tops in the nation. That's the story with Maryland tailback Bruce Perry, who leads the nation in rushing with 175 yards a game.

Perry's new status comes after a 30-carry, 276-yard performance that included two touchdowns in a 27-20 win over Wake Forest on Saturday. About a month before, Perry was battling with Marc Riley and Jason Crawford to be the featured back in the new offense of Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.

Heading into the opening game against North Carolina, Friedgen maintained that there would be no feature back. But after Perry's running Saturday, the rookie coach said, "If he keeps running for 275 yards, you can call me a liar."

Faith in the sophomore and Philadelphia native is catching on. Quarterback Shaun Hill said he predicted that Perry would score on the first play of the game on Saturday - "I don't know if it was by chance or if I'm a psychic."

Well, Perry's contributions went far beyond the 80-yard dash on the game's first play of scrimmage. He added 34 receiving yards to the best rushing day since LaMont Jordan's 306-yard outing against Virginia in 1999.

"I'm surprised at the number of carries, but I can't say that I'm surprised at myself," Perry said. "Not to be cocky or brash, but I know what I'm capable of and I just wanted a chance to show it."

As Saturday's game went on, Perry got the ball more and had 17 of his rushes in the second half for 145 yards. Left tackle C.J. Brooks and center Melvin Fowler were the two who stood out in a line that changes as Friedgen tries to play as many guys as possible.

"We thought we could run on these guys," left guard Todd Wike said. "Part of our plan was to come out and attack them right away to establish a physical game. For the most part, we were able to do that."

Six of Perry's 30 carries accounted for 206 of his yards, including gains of 10 yards or more on three of his first four carries in the fourth quarter. The last of those was the 50-yard touchdown that turned out to be the game-winner.

But after looking at the tape yesterday, Friedgen found himself more impressed with Perry's shorter runs. "Just by finishing off the run, he got 5 yards when he should have gotten none."

That was one of the elements that Perry sought to improve since the Eastern Michigan game on Sept. 8. With Maryland's Sept. 15 game against West Virginia postponed until this weekend, it was curious last Tuesday to hear Friedgen speak of the progress Perry had made.

But in the practices, Perry said he had been working on being more of the workaday player his coach may have envisioned in a bigger package than 5 feet 9, 190 pounds, working through the recurring hamstring injuries that hobbled him in the second of his touchdown runs.

"You practice well, you play well," said Perry, who is also third in all-purpose yardage with 206.3 yards a game. "I just put an emphasis on doing everything right and maintaining consistency in practice. Just trying to be a tough football player."

NOTES: The dominance that Maryland had shown on defense during the first two games was not evident Saturday, but the unit showed its resilience at key moments. Linebacker Mike Whaley and safety Tony Jackson were standouts.

Whaley batted down two passes. The second one didn't matter because Wake Forest eventually got the first down, but the first one - on a fourth-down play deep in Maryland territory - kept the Terps ahead early in the game.

"He was put in a situation and played a good game," Friedgen said of the sophomore, who had six tackles. "He's been playing good for us all year."

Jackson, a senior safety, had 11 tackles and two pass deflections. He also picked up a fumble - forced by Randall Jones on Wake's Anthony Young - that ended a drive into Maryland territory. ...... Contrary to prior reports, a 4-0 start by Maryland would be the school's first since 1995, and the second since 1978. ... Friedgen said that cornerback Curome Cox played well and Dennard Wilson's increased time came because he "was deserving of some time." ... The nicks and bruises include hamstring and rib concerns for Perry, a thigh bruise for receiver Jafar Williams and an ankle sprain for defensive end Durrand Roundtree. All are considered minor. ... Statistically, the Terps are ninth nationally in rushing yardage (245.7) and ninth in scoring defense (10.0).

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