Terps make turn in road, routing W. Virginia, 48-17

Young team stands up, silences hostile crowd jumping out to 35-0 lead

October 06, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Young teams experiencing growing pains are not supposed to come to hostile places like this and dish out embarrassing lessons.

Maybe the Maryland Terrapins are growing up in a hurry. Maybe West Virginia, boasting the nation's top-ranked rushing offense, never saw them coming. But only one team came prepared yesterday at Mountaineer Field, where the Terps bounced out of the gate by scoring the first 35 points and were never threatened, cruising to a 48-17 victory before 55,146 stunned fans.

They were not the only surprised viewers in attendance.

"I didn't expect this. I thought it was going to be smash-mouth, down-to-the-wire," Terps senior middle linebacker E.J. Henderson said. "But we came ready to play and got off to that fast start, which we hadn't gotten in a while."

The Terps, who start only six seniors, looked positively veteran for most of the day, beginning with a defense and a special teams unit that continuously won the field position game and put pressure on West Virginia's one-dimensional attack. And the playmakers kept popping up for Maryland, starting with junior quarterback Scott McBrien, who returned triumphantly to the school from which he transferred to silence his old teammates and throngs of jeering spectators.

McBrien, who did not speak to the media after his homecoming, had more problems running the option, missed some open receivers and fumbled twice. But he got the last laugh after propelling the Terps to a 28-point first quarter, their most prolific quarter in 20 years. McBrien began the scoring with a 21-yard run, then combined with Jafar Williams on a 45-yard touchdown on Maryland's third score.

Freshman tailback Josh Allen broke off a 70-yard touchdown run, one of two scores, to highlight the most impressive day of his young career. Senior tailback Chris Downs gave up much playing time to Allen, but still had time to rip off a 72-yard touchdown to finish the scoring. And sophomore wide receiver/kick returner Steve Suter shined in both phases. His 80-yard punt return finished the Terps' explosive first quarter and put West Virginia (3-2) in a hole too deep.

The defense stuffed the Mountaineers' vaunted running game and feasted on West Virginia's weak passing attack by intercepting quarterbacks Rasheed Marshall and Danny Embick a combined three times. Place-kicker Nick Novak added two second-half field goals, including a booming 46-yarder.

It was quite a tuneup for the Terps (4-2), who had beaten three second-division teams before dropping a legitimate threat in its tracks yesterday. Maryland will resume its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule on Oct. 17 against visiting Georgia Tech.

"We passed a tremendous hurdle in our season. A young team going on the road against a very good football team," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "This team is a work in progress. I asked them to play with their hearts. This is a game of who wants it more. I didn't know about this team. We're starting to come to life now."

"We hadn't played a good team that had proven themselves [until yesterday]," added defensive tackle C.J. Feldheim. "Our goal was to come in and shut them down and make a statement as a defense. It was a big statement game."

As good as Maryland was - its only smudge was a mid-game stumble, during which West Virginia scored 17 unanswered points -the Mountaineers were equally horrible.

West Virginia tackled poorly, and it often was so far out of position it could barely lay a hand on whichever Terp was carrying the ball. And once Maryland controlled the Mountaineers on the ground, where they averaged 3.3 yards on 57 carries, West Virginia was helpless in its attempts to catch up through the air.

Then, after Maryland watched its lead slip to 35-17 midway in the third quarter, the Terps responded with a finishing kick, scoring 13 unanswered points.

"That's the way we'd like to come out every game if we could," Suter said. "I couldn't have scripted it any better."

How easy was it for Maryland to take control? It took seven plays for the Terps to cover their first three touchdown drives, which covered a combined 162 yards. McBrien got the party rolling by faking out half of the West Virginia defense with a phony handoff to fullback James Lynch, then rolling right where no one was there to greet him. He practically walked in for a 21-yard score.

That was a preview of a four-minute West Virginia nightmare later in the quarter that took the crowd and the home team out of the game.

Allen, who finished with 16 carries for a career-high 116 yards and made Downs (four rushes, 67 yards) an afterthought, ran off right tackle, through two arm tackles, and didn't stop until he had completed a 70-yard touchdown with 3:48 to go in the quarter.

The Terps completed a 21-point blitz by forcing a turnover and a punt and turning them into quick scores. First, safety Dennard Wilson tipped an ill-advised Marshall pass that fellow safety Madieu Williams picked off. On the next play, Williams got a step on cornerback Brian King, and McBrien hit Williams in stride for a 45-yard TD, making it 21-0 with 2:23 left.

West Virginia then punted near the quarter's end, only to have Suter weave his way 80 yards nearly untouched. In a span of 3:38, the Terps had scored three touchdowns and buried the Mountaineers.

"I thought we had our team better prepared than it showed. We're very disappointed," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Overall, it was a dismal performance."

Next for Terps

Opponent: Georgia Tech

Site:Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Oct. 17, 7:45 p.m.

Record: 4-2

Yesterday: Lost to Wake Forest, 24-21

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