Prunzik glad to aim run-and-shoot at Panthers defense Terps receiver sees game as pivotal


COLLEGE PARK -- When his uncle asked him if he wanted to go to Pitt, Dan Prunzik shrugged. He hadn't heard a word from Pitt's recruiters. No, don't bother to put in a good word.

His uncle, Frank Gustine, is a Pitt alumnus, a quarterback who played for the Panthers in the late 1960s. When Prunzik was growing up in Pittsburgh, Uncle Frank took him to the school's football and basketball games.

"We used to go in the locker room and meet all the players," Prunzik said. "I grew up a Pitt fan. I loved Pitt."

He loves Pitt no longer. When Pitt visits Byrd Stadium tomorrow (7 p.m.), Prunzik will be in a Maryland uniform as a senior wide receiver playing before a contingent of about 20 relatives and friends from his hometown.

Thanks to Maryland's new run-and-shoot offense, Prunzik and fellow senior receivers Marcus Badgett and Richie Harris are putting up impressive numbers that hardly seem fitting on a team that's winless in four starts.

The three receivers are among the Atlantic Coast Conference's top five in catches per game. Badgett leads the ACC, and is 10th in the country, with 6.8 catches. Prunzik is third in the ACC with 5.8; Harris is fifth with 5.0.

Maryland didn't play Pitt during Prunzik's first three years at Maryland, so he looked forward to last year's match (a 24-20 Pitt victory).

"It's not like, they didn't recruit me so I want to kill 'em," Prunzik said. "I wasn't recruited much by anybody, partly because I missed seven games my senior year with a broken jaw."

Prunzik looks at tomorrow's game as the "turning point" for Maryland.

"We could have won our first three and we just didn't play well against Penn State," he said. "This one, we know we can win, and it's at home.

"Our problem is when we get down close, inside the 20, we press to get in. We've got to keep in the flow, relax a little."

When Mark Duffner arrived with his run-and-shoot, Prunzik, Badgett and Harris were overjoyed. It would mean more passing and more wide receivers on the field at the same time.

"I smiled for days," Badgett said. "I told all my friends and ran up my phone bill."

Said Harris, a Mount St. Joseph grad, "I was excited because my favorite NFL teams use the run-and-shoot -- Atlanta, Detroit, Houston. Those teams seem to have so much fun. I never dreamed the run-and-shoot would come here."

In four games, Maryland has accumulated 1,128 yards passing, compared with 1,850 all last season. Badgett, Prunzik and Harris have 782 of the 1,128.

"My first three years, I played a lot, but never contributed as far as catching the ball was concerned," Prunzik said. "I might have been in for 25 plays, but I wasn't among the receivers the quarterback looked to."

Over three years, Prunzik was used as a punt returner as well as a receiver. But he caught only 16 passes for 262 yards.

This season he has 23 catches for 297 yards.

"The run-and-shoot changed my career," Prunzik said.

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