UM passes fourth straight test

Friedgen finds faults, but 4-0 Terps will take 32-20 win over WVU

College Football

September 30, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - No one nitpicks with a bigger grin than Ralph Friedgen did at times yesterday after his Maryland football team defeated West Virginia, 32-20.

He moaned about everything but the soup - from the quiet crowd of 40,166 at Byrd Stadium, to the continued struggles of the passing game, to his team's sudden penchant for committing penalties.

"We played very hard again, but not too smart," said Friedgen, who saw his team give up as much penalty yardage (65) in the first half as it had in the first two games of the season. "Those penalties are like a hot dagger through my heart."

But such misery is sweet for Friedgen because he likes it when the Terrapins' defense forces six turnovers. He likes it when Bruce Perry runs for 153 yards. He likes being turnover-free. And he likes it when Maryland's deficiencies fade long enough to allow the school a 4-0 record, the best start since 1995.

After beating the Mountaineers (2-2), the Terps players and their coach high-tailed it over to the northwest portion of the field, where they did two sing-alongs of the school fight song with the student section.

"I'd rather be 4-0 than 0-4 and getting there," Friedgen said, referring to the work in progress that his team seems to be. "They ought to celebrate - when we win, we celebrate. Winning's hard."

Maryland's struggle ended with about four minutes left in the game, when West Virginia's star tailback, Avon Cobourne, slipped on a fourth-and-five play after catching a screen pass from quarterback Brad Lewis.

Right in front of linebacker E.J. Henderson, Cobourne fell a yard short of a first down at the Maryland 8-yard line, and could have scored on the play to cut the 32-20 lead that the Terps had established on a Shaun Hill quarterback sneak with 12:11 left in the game.

"If he stayed up, he scored," Friedgen said of Cobourne, who had 128 yards on 31 carries. "The good Lord must have stopped him."

It was the one time when Maryland's defense had no need to bail itself out, which is not the same as saying that the unit did not need bailing out during a day when West Virginia had no problem moving the ball up and down the field.

The Mountaineers had more yardage than Maryland (430-373), and were aided toward the Terps' goal line in the first half by penalties of the needless variety. Randall Jones shoved a receiver he had covered on a pass that was uncatchable. Mike Whaley yanked Cobourne's face mask. Ty Stewart roughed Lewis after he had thrown.

But West Virginia produced one touchdown in six trips within 20 yards of the end zone - Maryland safety Tony Jackson had an interception in the end zone to end one drive, and Whaley ended two others by batting down a Lewis pass and tackling Cobourne for a loss.

Whaley, who would give Maryland a 19-13 lead in the second quarter by returning a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown, had a strong game, as did Jackson, who also had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.

"I seem to have a nose for the football," said Jackson, a Wilde Lake product whose pick was his third of the season, and the first of four that Maryland would have against Lewis. "I just try to make plays, and that's what's been happening."

As many opportunities as it gave West Virginia's offense, the Maryland defense also created some chances for its own offense. By pinning the Mountaineers in their own end of the field, the defense gave Hill the ball for his third series in good field position.

After waiting to see how West Virginia would gear up for Perry - who came into the game with a nation's best average of 175 rushing yards per game - Hill got the ball to his star back, who had a 27-yard carry to set up Marc Riley's 3-yard touchdown run with 3:55 left in the first quarter.

The Terps had expected the Mountaineers to stack the line, but it didn't happen to the extent that they anticipated. In an effort to rest Perry, and to take advantage of any opportunities for the passing game, he had only 10 carries and had less than 100 yards at halftime for the first time this season.

"I just wanted to make sure I had my right assignments and was doing what I had to do," said Perry, who finished with 31 carries. "The carries and the yards really didn't mean that much to me."

Still, it was Perry who scored from 6 yards out with 11:40 left in the second quarter to give Maryland a 13-3 lead. Phil Braxton brought West Virginia back with 4:31 left on an 8-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 13.

But Lewis, consistently flustered throughout the game, practically threw the ball on the ground, where it was picked up by a flabbergasted Whaley, who faltered - "I don't think he wanted to run," Henderson said - then ran 52 yards for the score with 2:15 left in the first half.

West Virginia found despair in Maryland's comic relief, its six turnovers, one short of the school record.

"You are not going to beat anybody with six turnovers, especially a pretty good Maryland team," said Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez.

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