Lattimore takes big step out of R. Lewis' shadow, into Maryland spotlight

Acc & State

September 25, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In addition to dealing with being the little brother in the shadow of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, and playing football about 30 miles away from the pro stadium where Lewis plays, Maryland sophomore running back Keon Lattimore has had to deal with being third string.

Until yesterday.

Determined to find a playmaker who could spark the Terps' running game, which in its last two losses totaled 106 yards combined, coach Ralph Friedgen gave Lattimore an opportunity in yesterday's 22-12 win over Wake Forest.

Never mind the fullback who went the wrong way during that window of opportunity in the fourth quarter. Lattimore barreled through the Demon Deacons' defense without a lead blocker and ran 3 yards for the Terps' only offensive touchdown of the game and a 22-10 lead with 13:19 remaining.

"It was a blown play, but that just shows my determination to get in there," said Lattimore, who led the team with 76 rushing yards on 15 carries. "I showed what I can do."

Lattimore, a graduate of Mount St. Joseph, entered this season with a lot of hype surrounding him, especially with the Terps' season opener against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium, where he has spent countless Sundays watching Lewis.

On that day, it was his older brother's turn to watch. Lattimore got only one carry in that game, though, and was pushed back for a 1-yard loss. Instead, senior starter Mario Merrills rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown and appeared to be the player Friedgen was searching for.

Lattimore settled into his spot behind Merrills and the top backup, Lance Ball. He said he wasn't sure what, exactly, had been keeping him there.

"I'm still a team player. I encourage those guys," Lattimore said. "According to me, I was doing everything I could to get myself on the field, but maybe the coaches were seeing something I didn't see. It was the coaches' decision, but when my number was called on, I did what I had to do."

As Merrills quietly disappeared yesterday, carrying six times for 1 yard, Lattimore and Ball helped Maryland earn more first downs rushing (11) than passing (seven) for the first time since the season opener. Ball finished with 51 yards on 17 carries.

"We have certain packages with me and Keon in the backfield, and we basically ran the heck out of those plays today and this week in practice," Ball said. "It's a combination of us today and the [offensive] line. We kept the ball north and south; we didn't go sideways. We ran at them, and that's what we've got to stick to."

Lattimore entered this season hoping to separate himself from his brother as an individual athlete.

"It's definitely annoying," he said this summer of having his name constantly attached to Lewis'. "It's something I've been trying to get away from. That was a big part of the reason I didn't go to Miami. I wanted to step out of my brother's shadow and make my own name.

"But it's just something that comes along with the territory," he added. "It's nothing to be ashamed of, but I just want to be my own man."

And there is nothing Friedgen would like more.

"Keon Lattimore really took a step forward today," the coach said. "He made some guys miss, which was what we need.

"That's the type of back I thought Keon was," Friedgen added. "I'd still like to see him be able to take one all the way. We could really use him to come out and be a good runner for us."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

VIRGINIA@MARYLAND

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Records: Virginia (3-0, 1-0); Maryland (2-2, 1-1).

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