Turtles on a Tear
Maryland Coach Mark Duffner has tried just about everything to breathe life into the Terps. Before some games he has dressed an assistant coach as the opposing team's mascot and then chased him out of Byrd Stadium as his players cheered. He has asphyxiated a jarful of fleas to demonstrate to the Terrapins what happens when "you let others put a lid on your aspirations." He has even told his team that in lieu of wins on the football field, there are other small victories to be found in life, such as...successfully doing one's laundry. Such behavior might have been considered acceptably daffy if Maryland had been winning, but until this season it seemed plain off-the-wall given Duffner's 9-24 record in his first three years with the Terps. "The gimmickry does have a useful purpose," Duffner says, "but I understand there is no better motivator than winning."
With a 41-28 victory over Duke last Saturday night that improved its record to 4-0, Maryland should now be well motivated, indeed. That start, the Terps' best since 1978, has gone a long way toward saving Duffner's job, not to mention salvaging the sparkling reputation he brought with him four years ago from Holy Cross, where his six-season record had been 60-5-1. And with the return to the team this week of All-ACC quarterback Scott Milanovich from his four-game suspension for gambling, it's conceivable that Maryland could be 9-0 entering its final two regular season games, against Virginia and Florida State. "Let's not get carried away," cautions Duffner. "It's only 4-0."
But it's a very solid 4-0. Two years ago the Maryland defense surrendered an NCAA-record 553 yards per game. In one especially telling game against Virginia Tech that season, the Terps rolled up 649 yards of total offense and lost by 27 points. This fall, however, the defense is giving up only 318.3 yards a game and has forced 16 turnovers.
The biggest question facing the Terps is how they will react to the reinstatement of Milanovich, whose return could prove more trying than his absence. His backup, Brian Cummings, continued to impress with a 19-of-27, 299-yard performance against Duke, and now Duffner must decide whether or not to make Milanovich his starter at quarterback. Despite Milanovich's obvious credentials—he's .still considered a potential first-round NFL draft pick—a change at this time poses some risks.
The last thing Duffner needs is a quarterback controversy, especially after his indecisive handling of Milanovich and Kevin Foley last year—the two of them shared playing time in the first five games—confused the other Terps and ultimately prompted Foley to transfer to Boston University. Cummings himself considered leaving Maryland last winter to pursue a baseball career but decided to stay after Foley transferred.
For now, though, Cummings is willing to play the loyal foot soldier. "I understand why I got a chance to start," he says. "It's not because Scott played himself out of a job. I'll just keep after it as hard as I can. One way or the other, the Terps will keep rolling."
A Winning Idea
After Penn State second-string quarterback Mike McQueary threw a 42-yard bomb to Chris Campbell for a final, meaningless touchdown in the last minute of the Nittany Lions' 59-34 win over Rutgers, Joe Paterno found himself in the unfamiliar position of defending himself against accusations of running up the score. When Scarlet Knight coach Doug Graber met Paterno at midfield for the postgame handshake, Graber said, "I didn't think you played that way." That triggered a brief, heated exchange between the two coaches. A TV microphone caught Paterno's angry reply: "That's——." However, after the game Paterno allowed, "[Graber] has a right to be upset." Paterno claims the play called for a short pass to the tight end but McQueary threw long when he saw an open receiver.
Paterno's last-minute passing against the Scarlet Knights stood in stark contrast to the conclusion of the Boston College-Michigan game the week before. With the Wolverines leading BC 23-13 in the closing seconds and in possession of the ball on the Eagle three-yard line, Michigan interim coach Lloyd Carr ordered quarterback Brian Griese to fall on the ball. After the game Carr defended his decision by decrying lopsided scores as "sickening" and "an indictment of our profession." It was an admirable stance, considering that as an interim coach, Carr probably has more to gain from a leap in the polls than any other major-college coach and yet has shown little inclination to impress poll voters with gaudy victory margins.