With Pitt stopping by, Maryland in a rush to pressure the passer

The week before Maryland blew a 19-point, fourth-quarter lead and lost to West Virginia, 34-33, the Mountaineers did a massacre job on Pitt, 44-6. Therefore, the Terps should be a lock to finally get a victory when the Panthers come to call Saturday evening, right?

An example of syllogistic (tricky, specious) reasoning if there ever was one.


One of the weaknesses of Maryland in its four losses to date has been its inability to put pressure on the opposing passer. Some of them have had time to weave a couple of baskets back there.

"We're working on our pass rush. We've been giving the other team's quarterback more time than we'd like," notes coach Mark Duffner, who is always so positive in his negative assessments.


Meanwhile, if there is one thing Pitt has accomplished while winning half of its four starts, it's that its high-powered passing game has functioned pretty much as it pleases. The triggerman is Alex Van Pelt, who, according to Duffner, "is quick, doesn't take sacks, has a great arm and almost always makes the right play."

Form holding true then, and considering that the offenses of both teams have partied consistently, the prospects for this being a rock-ribbed defensive struggle appear remote. Which has to be to the Terps' liking.

"Nobody has really stopped us," says the coach, "but the objective is to win, so things like us getting more first downs [32-28] and total yards [518-502] than Penn State doesn't mean much when you lose [49-13]."

While triggering the Panthers' attack to nearly 30 points per game, Van Pelt already has knocked Dan Marino back to second place in the school record book and could end up challenging Doug Flutie's all-time NCAA mark for passing yardage.

"He's probably the best thrower we'll face this year," said Duffner, who said he's working on "sneaking" a 12th player onto the defense. He appeared to be kidding, although it worked for Penn State against Kansas in the Orange Bowl once.

* Nowhere in my copy of the Constitution and the accompanying Bill of Rights does it say that participation in high school athletics is included on the list of God-given freedoms. Every so often a story pops up suggesting making tackles, behind-the-back passes or double plays be no longer thought of as privileges but educational requirements.

Last week, in Virginia, eight youngsters expecting to suit up for a high school freshman game were told to turn in their gear because they were ineligible to compete. The lads, it seems, had failed to pass a examination attesting to their ability to do high school work.

To its great credit, the Dominion insists that eighth-graders show ability in math, literacy and writing in order to qualify for any extra-curricular participation. Quite simply, the kids hadn't passed the so-called Literacy Passport Test. Cut and dried.


While good ol' Virginny should be receiving accolades for doing its job with regard to educating its youth, not surprisingly it is under attack.

No less a personage than the principal of the high school involved stated, "I'm very upset about this whole thing. The whole issue is not clear and is not fair."

She declined to discuss just where the issue of either passing or failing a test becomes cloudy.

Principals of high schools should be delirious the state requires that grammar and middle school kids show up at their doors reasonably well prepared to handle the rigors of a ninth-grade curriculum. And it's not as though these kids are being tossed to the wolves in a one-shot, do-or-die situation.

The passport test is first given in the sixth grade when scores of youngsters are able to pass it. Then, through the next couple of years, kids can take it again and again until they are able to pass, sort of like law school graduates attempting to pass a bar exam.

The state reports that about 9 percent of its current ninth-graders failed the test and, that being the case, it would seem ridiculous to let some of them go out and kick a football around on afternoons when they obviously have some catching up to do.


Of course, there are a couple of thousand reasons why Junior has trouble adding a column of numbers, reading and writing, RTC speaking or understanding a simple sentence. But they become inconsequential when, in the final analysis, the kid gets out of high school and doesn't even have the ability to understand or fill out a job application form.

Also, nowhere in the Bill of Rights is there anything about it being the solemn duty of all schools to provide expensive recreation for youngsters regardless of Ds, Fs, Incompletes and suspensions.