Second wind blows Terps by Tech, 34-10

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

183, 2 TDs come after halftime

Realigned offensive line, WR Monroe (106 yards) rise for national 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 consecutive 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 top-rated scoring defense in the league.

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 second-half 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 contributor who had four career 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.

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

Last night, Downs was Georgia Tech's worst nightmare, and how quickly he struck. With the Terps clinging to a 6-3 halftime lead, he sparked touchdown drives of 76 and 80 yards on Maryland's first two third-quarter possessions, and the Yellow Jackets were never the same.

"It was like sharks to blood," said Terps guard Lamar Bryant. "We knew we weren't going to win this game kicking field goals, and we came out in the second half with the mind-set that owned the line of scrimmage."

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 to put the Yellow Jackets in a 20-3 hole with six minutes left.

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, ran 64 yards for a touchdown that made it 27-3 with 7:40 left in the game.

Between the wet field that caused receivers and cornerbacks to take turns slipping, Maryland's inability to run the ball, Georgia Tech's tendency to stop itself with penalties, and both teams' problems with third-down conversions, the first half featured little sustained offense.

The Yellow Jackets piled up 241 first-half yards, including 149 on the ground, yet did not score until their final possession on a 19-yard field goal by Luke Manget. That pulled Georgia Tech to within 6-3 with 1:16 left in the half, and it came after the Yellow Jackets had driven 62 yards to the Maryland 1. But on third-and-goal, running back P.J. Daniels was stuffed by Henderson for a 1-yard loss, forcing Georgia Tech to settle for a field goal.

The Terps' defense bent without breaking often in the opening half, beginning with a 51-yard run by Clinksdale on the game's second play from scrimmage. That quickly put the Yellow Jackets in Maryland territory, but after a pair of 5-yard losses by Eziemefe, the drive stalled at the Terps' 28, leaving Manget to miss a 45-yard field-goal attempt.

Maryland took a 3-0 lead on its first possession on a 35-yard field goal by Nick Novak with 7:53 left in the first quarter. McBrien got the drive rolling by scrambling to his left and hitting Monroe down the left sideline for a 34-yard gain to the Georgia Tech 26. Three plays later on third-and-seven, Monroe failed to run his route deep enough, and McBrien hit him for a 6-yard gain, forcing Novak onto the field.

The Yellow Jackets pulled off a fake punt for a 24-yard gain on their ensuing possession, but lost 15 yards on the play, due to a personal foul penalty. They followed that with a holding infraction. The drive quickly died after that.

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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