COLLEGE PARK - After almost not playing at all in his first two years at Maryland, North Carroll graduate Steve Suter has found a niche as a punt returner this season, tying an NCAA Division I single-season record for touchdowns from punts with four.
His success on returns - averaging 14.2 yards on punt returns and 26.3 yards on kickoff returns - has raised the question of what he could do for the team if he got more plays from scrimmage.
Heading into Saturday's game at Clemson (6-4, 4-3), consider that question answered. In a 24-21 win over then-No. 14 North Carolina State on Saturday that put the Terrapins into the national rankings at No. 19, Suter contributed a long run for the team's first score, and a long reception led to the game-winning field goal in the final minute.
In earlier weeks, the team's offensive coaches approached him with the idea of installing plays designed to get him into open space, and he jumped at it.
"When they come to me and say they'd like to see me in the game more," Suter said, "I'm not going to say, `No, don't.' I'm going to say, `Let's do it. What you've got?' "
Suter had 169 all-purpose yards in the game - including 44 yards on catches and 61 in return yardage - and was named the Offensive Back of the Week in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Last weekend wasn't the first time that Suter delivered a decisive big play for Maryland this season. After Akron made a big play early to cut the Terps' lead to 14-7, he returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown and the rout was on.
Then there were a 91-yard scoring pass from Scott McBrien against Eastern Michigan and punt returns of 80, 63 and 77 yards against West Virginia, Duke and North Carolina, respectively.
Thus the impetus to get him more opportunities, particularly with opponents increasingly avoiding punting to him.
"He's a playmaker, and I know enough to get the ball in the hands of guys who can make plays," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "You're seeing what they're doing on punts - they're kicking away from him."
Suter began seeing more repetitions during the Duke and North Carolina preparations, but the nature of the games - blowouts of 45-12 and 59-7 - didn't warrant using him and allowing N.C. State to fully scout him.
The patience paid off against the Wolfpack, in a game in which the Terps included Suter while operating out of more four-receiver sets than usual.
Suter's end-around on the left side of the field resulted in a 64-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and gave a boost to Maryland, which had been trailing by two touchdowns. His 36-yard catch along the right sideline came in the final minute and led to Nick Novak's 26-yard game-winning field goal.
"I don't care what I'm doing as long as we're winning," Suter said, referring to his increased role. "They ran a few plays for me, but they have a few more."
For the second week in the past three, the Terps are going under cover for practices because of wet fields.
Maryland split the team between offense and defense on a "bubble" next to the university's golf course yesterday. Though the bubble allows the team to use all 53 yards from sideline to sideline, it limits the passing game, because the structure extends only 35 yards.
"If it was bigger, it would be perfect, but it's better than playing outside," Friedgen said. "It's tough to throw on the DBs when they go 35 yards and there's a wall behind them."
Center Kyle Schmitt (stinger), who has been out for three weeks, is cleared for this weekend. ... Right tackle Matt Crawford, who had missed the North Carolina game with a knee injury, is questionable for Clemson.
Next for Terps
Site: Clemson (S.C.) Memorial Stadium
When:Saturday, 7:45 p.m.
TV/Radio:ESPN2/WBAL (1090 AM)
Line:Maryland by 4 1/2