Terps out to cash in at expense of Virginia

UM can end skid vs. Cavs, take sole possession of first

October 06, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland wants Virginia badly today, and Al Groh knows it.

The new Virginia coach knows that No. 25 Maryland (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) is better than last year's 5-6 squad. The game at Byrd Stadium is for the ACC lead, and the Terps are trying to beat the Cavaliers (3-1, 2-0) for the first time since 1991.

"They have good talent on the team, and that talent has responded to the coach," said Groh, referring to Maryland's first-year coach Ralph Friedgen. "They have a lot of confidence. It's one of the hottest teams in the nation and probably one of the maddest teams in the nation. What I've heard is that they've had it with Virginia."

During the nine-game losing streak, games often seemed winnable for the Terps against Virginia teams that often seemed ordinary.

The same is true for the Cavaliers this year. On paper, neither the offense nor the defense have put up eye-catching numbers, aside from Billy McMullen's seven touchdown catches and Angelo Crowell's 12 tackles a game.

The defense allows 182 rushing yards a game, and Virginia has a middle-of-the-road per-game average on offense of 371 total yards. Still, the team has managed to hold opponents well enough to win its past three games after a season-opening setback against Wisconsin.

"Defensively, they are a very sound football team," Friedgen said, recalling his and Groh's days as NFL assistants. Groh was an assistant for Bill Parcells with the New York Giants, New England Patriots and New York Jets before becoming a head coach for the Jets last season. "They [all] played a 3-4 defense and they played good, sound, fundamental football. There are not a lot of things there that you can exploit."

Like Maryland, Virginia is exceeding projections, though Groh - not unlike Friedgen - says he's simply getting his team into form.

Groh agreed that he had to hasten progress offensively since the league leader in rushing from last year, Antwoine Womack, hadn't returned from an ankle injury he suffered in the Wisconsin game.

He described Womack as an explosive player who "sometimes turns a 4-yard run into a 12," an asset suddenly gone after the injury.

"There was a little alteration on our part, but that was something we considered from the time we got on the plane home," Groh said.

Virginia's fill-in at tailback, Arlen Harris, has been steady, rushing for 146 yards on 36 carries over the past two games. But a lot of the burden will go to the passing game and quarterbacks Bryson Spinner and Matt Schaub, the third quarterbacking tandem Maryland will have faced this season (joining North Carolina and Wake Forest).

The arrangement has worked out, with Spinner getting the start and Groh not hesitant to put Schaub in. The two have combined to pass for nine of the team's 11 touchdowns.

"That's their real strength," Friedgen said. "They have a good running game, but when you break them down, they are making their big plays in the passing game."

On defense, Virginia is much better than in 2000, when it allowed 421.9 yards a game, a figure that has gone down by 48 yards this season. The Cavaliers have also recorded 12 sacks on the season and are allowing only 27 percent of third-down conversions by opponents.

Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill is aware of the burden placed on him and his receivers if Virginia can contain tailback Bruce Perry, who leads the nation in rushing.

"They've got a great pass-defense," Hill said. "They know their assignments, and they're pretty exact in what they do, and do a good job at it."

NOTE: A Prince George's County Circuit Court judge sentenced Maryland's Marlon Moye-Moore to a year of unsupervised probation before judgment yesterday for a second-degree assault conviction.

Moye-Moore, 21, was also fined $150 plus court costs by Judge E. Allen Shepherd, one week after a jury found him guilty of punching Derrick Levroney, 19, of Baltimore, in a Hyattsville nightclub in February.

The jury acquitted the senior linebacker of four other charges, and if he successfully completes his probation, the conviction will go off of his record. Moye-Moore apologized for his conduct during yesterday's sentencing hearing, and said he was happy that his legal situation was resolved.

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