Second wind blows Terps by Tech, 34-10

28-point explosion turns 6-3 game into blowout as Downs rushes for 212

183, 3 TDs come after halftime

Shifted line, WR Monroe rip top defense in ACC for national TV audience

October 18, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - For the first 30 minutes at Byrd Stadium last night, the Maryland Terrapins had trouble running the ball on a sloppy field against a formidable Georgia Tech defense.

Then the Terps turned senior tailback Chris Downs and a crunching offensive line loose in the mud, and the Yellow Jackets rolled over helplessly.

When a wild, one-sided second half was over, the Terps had turned a tight game into a 34-10 rout before 41,766, and Maryland had kicked off the rest of its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule with a flourish.

Maryland (5-2, 1-1) won its fourth straight game by destroying Georgia Tech in the trenches, where an offensive line that was missing senior right tackle Matt Crawford did not miss a beat. Instead, the Terps, with a new center and three linemen playing different positions, beat up and ran over the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 1-3), who entered the contest with the league's top-rated scoring defense.

Granted, Georgia Tech lost outside linebacker Keyaron Fox to a sprained ankle in the first half, but that alone could not explain the utter collapse of the Yellow Jackets' front seven in the third quarter, when Downs single-handedly took over the game en route to his best performance of a feel-good year.

After gaining just 29 yards in the first half, Downs tore into the Yellow Jackets by rushing for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. He finished with a career-high 212 yards on 26 carries.

Quarterback Scott McBrien continued his progress by completing 11 of 19 passes for 198 yards, while senior wide receiver Scooter Monroe became the first Maryland receiver to pass the 100-yard mark in five years by catching five passes for 106 yards.

But the night belonged to Downs, the fifth-year senior who had four carries coming into the season, but was pressed into service after star junior tailback Bruce Perry tore his left groin muscle 11 days before the season opener. Perry is still working his way back on to the field.

"Here's a guy that could have had an attitude or could have given up, but he didn't," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of Downs. "He came to work, did his best every day. He used to make all kinds of mistakes. He's worked on his weaknesses and turned himself into a good running back at a time when we needed one."

"I have to say 100 percent of the credit goes to my offensive line. They came up real huge in the second half," said Downs, after recording the 12th-best rushing performance in school history. "During the third quarter, I saw creases and cracks in the defense, and I tried to get downhill as quickly as possible. This game was a must-win for us."

Last night, Downs was Georgia Tech's worst nightmare, and how quickly he struck. With the Terps clinging to a 6-3 halftime lead - after a half in which McBrien carried the offense - Downs sparked touchdown drives of 76 and 80 yards on Maryland's first two third-quarter possessions, and the Yellow Jackets were never the same. Downs rushed 14 times for 109 yards in the quarter.

On the opening drive, after McBrien softened up Georgia Tech with a 22-yard completion to freshman Jo Jo Walker, Downs finished the drive with runs up the middle for 21 and 10 yards before running off left tackle for a 15-yard score, making it 13-3 with 12:10 left in the third quarter.

The next drive unfolded in similar fashion. Monroe and McBrien teamed up for a 22-yard completion and a 30-yarder. Downs rushed five times for 26 yards on that march, which he ended with a 1-yard plunge.

Then, after Georgia Tech - which lost running backs Gordon Clinksdale and Ajenavi Eziemefe to injuries - wasted a 15-play drive by coming up empty in the red zone, the Terps put them away quickly. On the second play of the drive, Downs burst around right end behind great blocks by fullback Bernie Fiddler and tight end Jeff Dugan and sprinted 64 yards for a touchdown that made it 27-3 with 7:40 left in the game.

The Terps finished their scoring shortly thereafter, as the Yellow Jackets continued to implode. Wide receiver Will Glover fumbled after a short completion at the 15 after getting hit by Curome Cox, and cornerback Domonique Foxworth scooped up the ball and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown.

Maryland's defense, which got a huge game from free safety Madieu Williams (10 tackles, four passes defensed), spent much of the evening in the bend-but-don't-break mode. The Yellow Jackets rolled up 26 first downs and 485 yards, but committed seven costly penalties, did not perform in the red zone and played so poor defensively in crunch time that it didn't matter.

And for the first time this season, the Terps used the pass effectively to set up the run. McBrien, who left the game for a short time after getting poked in the eye late in the third quarter, had pinpoint accuracy on many occasions. His passing accounted for 107 of Maryland's 140 first-half yards.

McBrien got Maryland warmed up after halftime, and then it was time for Downs and some smash-mouth football.

"It was like sharks to blood," right guard Lamar Bryant, the only Terp lineman to start the game at his normal position. "We knew we weren't going to win this game kicking field goals. We came out in the second half with the mind-set that we own the line of scrimmage."

Said Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey: "I don't really know what happened. I think we had guys in the right spots, but we just weren't tackling. We couldn't get things going offensively. ... The third quarter was obviously our undoing."

Next for Terps

Opponent: Duke

Site: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.

When: Oct. 26, 1 p.m.

Record: 2-5

Last game: Lost to Wake Forest on Saturday, 36-10

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