Even with 3-game win streak, tired Terps grateful for break

Friedgen hopes rout of W.Va. builds confidence

College Football

October 07, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Even though the schedule demands it, Maryland Terrapins football coach Ralph Friedgen could not have designed a more ideal time for a break.

Six games into their 13-game, regular-season slate, the Terps are the tired owners of a three-game winning streak and are heading into a bye week having played their most complete game of the year under adverse conditions.

Not that the West Virginia Mountaineers put up much of a fight on Saturday by getting hammered on their home field, 48-17, with a performance that was every bit as lifeless as Maryland's was inspired.

Regardless, the Terps (4-2, 0-1), with the rest of their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule ahead and visions of another bowl berth on their minds, badly needed to beat a worthy opponent after recording easy victories over Akron, Eastern Michigan and Wofford. And all Maryland did while evening its series with West Virginia at 19-19-2 was humiliate the Mountaineers by scoring the game's first 35 points.

"I believed in this team. I'm hoping the kids gain confidence from what they did [on Saturday], and I hope they believe in themselves even more. They need a break," said Friedgen, who planned to give the team several days off this week. "Where I feel better is that they were able to rise to the occasion and were able to play a tough, hard football game with the desire to win."

Maryland torched West Virginia (3-2) with big plays and stuffed the Mountaineers with a hard-nosed effort.

The Terps' ever-improving defense, led by tackles Randy Starks and C.J. Feldheim, middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and safety Madieu Williams, held the nation's top-ranked rushing offense in check. West Virginia averaged 3.3 yards a carry against Maryland, and that included a 43-yard run by lead back Avon Cobourne, who otherwise gained 80 yards on 29 attempts.

Maryland return man Steve Suter continued to shine with 142 punt return yards, including an 80-yarder for a touchdown that blew the game open at 28-0 at the end of the first quarter. Nick Novak made field goals from 37 and 46 yards, and has now converted 21 of his past 25 attempts dating to last October. Punter Brooks Barnard remained the ACC's leader after averaging 43.3 yards on six kicks.

"Defensively, we were outstanding, and our special teams were very good," Friedgen said. "I still think we're a little inconsistent on offense. We're stopping our drives, and we've got to get that corrected."

Maryland did not have to sustain much against the Mountaineers. The Terps' offense gained a modest 14 first downs and did not even hold the ball for 25 minutes, and yet it scored five touchdowns. Four of those scores came on plays of 45 yards or more.

Quarterback Scott McBrien was solid in the passing game, completing eight of 18 for 162 yards and a 45-yard touchdown strike to Jafar Williams, his first touchdown of the year.

But other than running in untouched for a 21-yard touchdown that opened the scoring, McBrien continued to have problems running the option.

Friedgen said he is considering putting that part of his offense on the shelf.

"If we could have executed the option, we would have solved a lot of problems," he said.

"There were a number of times [on Saturday] when it could have worked, based on what was there [defensively]. I do think we threw the ball up the field better. The running back situation gets better every day."

While junior tailback Bruce Perry tries to overcome a torn groin muscle and return to practice - Friedgen hopes he can practice by Saturday - the Terps continue to cultivate depth in the backfield. At West Virginia, freshman Josh Allen became the lead back with 16 carries for 116 yards, both career highs, and two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder.

Although he started the game, senior Chris Downs had only four carries, one for a 72-yard touchdown. Downs had carried the brunt of the load in four previous starts.

Friedgen said running backs coach Mike Locksley decided to ride Allen as the game progressed.

"I think Coach Locksley felt good with what Josh was doing, and I give him a lot of freedom with the substitutions. He felt like Josh was the hot back," Friedgen said. "I'm hoping Bruce is ready to go by Saturday, but I'm not going to push that. I know he wants to play very badly."

NOTES: Allen has taken over the team lead in touchdowns with six. ... Wide receivers Scooter Monroe and Williams share the team lead with 14 receptions. Neither is among the ACC leaders, and Monroe has yet to score a touchdown. ... In his past two games, Starks has 18 tackles, 10 solo. ... Friedgen said safeties Dennard Wilson and Curtis Williams suffered bruised hips. ... Strong-side linebacker Andrew Henley replaced Leroy Ambush (one-game suspension) and had five tackles.

Next for Terps

Opponent:Georgia Tech (4-2)

Site:Byrd Stadium, College Park

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

TV/Radio:ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

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