Close call

college football kickoff

Despite Scott's 197 yards, Terps just squeak by Delaware

August 31, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK - So much about Maryland seemed new. There was a new season to celebrate, a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback rotation and a flashy new starter at tailback.

Maryland's red-clad fans were primed to rejoice in the novelty of it all, to embrace a win inside a stadium that is getting new suites and new seating.

What the fans got instead yesterday was an uncomfortably close 14-7 victory against a Delaware team that got shoved around on the field - yielding 197 rushing yards by new Maryland starter Da'Rel Scott - but managed to keep the contest close.

The Terps finally prevailed on a day when coach Ralph Friedgen, who had spent much of the preseason answering questions about which quarterback would start, ended up unexpectedly playing three: starter Jordan Steffy, Chris Turner and Josh Portis.

The emergence of Portis in the huddle midway through the first quarter was planned. But Turner's entrance in the fourth quarter apparently wasn't.

With Maryland up 14-0, Turner entered with 12:08 left and finished the game after Steffy had completed 10 of 18 passes for 115 yards with two interceptions and a fumble that Maryland recovered.

"Steffy injured his right thumb," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I thought he played pretty good in the first half. I don't know when he hurt his thumb. I don't think he said anything to me."

Several players, including wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who scored Maryland's first touchdown and made his 100th career catch, said they didn't know Steffy had gotten hurt.

Steffy wasn't made available for comment after the game. Maryland officials said the quarterback was willing to be interviewed but that Friedgen and Shawn Nestor, an associate media relations director, didn't want him subjected to scrutiny. Maryland coaches have generally been protective of Steffy, a hard worker they believe is unfairly targeted by fans for criticism. Steffy heard some boos yesterday.

The Portis situation was different. The multidimensional Portis, a fan favorite, came in for four plays and ran each time. Coaches have been itching to use his athleticism if the right situation presented itself.

Portis entered on first down and ran a draw for 6 yards. He came in for another play in the second quarter and two more in the third, finishing with 10 yards. Friedgen said Portis called the wrong play on his last carry, a 3-yard loss.

Friedgen said he used Portis partly because Scott was cramping up. "I tried to eat bananas and drink Gatorade," Scott said.

The running back said of his big game, "I just want to set the tone and let the people know what I can do."

If Maryland fans were sweating, it wasn't just because of the 87-degree temperatures and 52 percent humidity. It was because the Blue Hens, aided by three missed field goals by the normally reliable Obi Egekeze, wouldn't go away.

Egekeze missed from 48, 44 and 41 yards. He converted 17 of 23 last season - sixth most accurate in school history. He has a different holder this season, Travis Baltz, because walk-on holder Matt Goldberg is no longer with the team.

The fans had to be wondering whether Maryland could really lose on a day when Scott had the most yards by a Terrapin since Bruce Perry in 2003 and freshman Davin Meggett made an explosive debut with seven carries for 52 yards and a touchdown.

"It tends to happen every first game, doesn't it?" defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre said of Maryland's slow starts. "We're a team that always improves."

Maryland took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. From the Delaware 48-yard line, Steffy threw over the middle to Heyward-Bey, who pulled the ball in with one hand for a 36-yard reception. Heyward-Bey took an end-around on the next play and ran easily for a 12-yard touchdown.

The Terps made it 14-0 in the third quarter on a 14-yard run around the left end by Meggett, the son of former NFL running back David Meggett who impressed coaches in the preseason with his work ethic.

But Delaware, who replaced departed quarterback Joe Flacco with Ohio State transfer Robby Schoenhoft, made it 14-7 with 5:20 remaining on a 1-yard run by Johnathon Smith. Delaware took over on its 28 with a chance for a tying drive with 3:32 left. But free safety Terrell Skinner, a hard hitter all day, intercepted Schoenhoft and Maryland ran out the clock.

Next game: @Middle Tennessee State, Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: 1300 AM

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