Western Maryland remains the rock in up-and-down state year

It was quite a weekend for college football teams in the state. Several broke new ground.

Navy finally scored its first points of the year -- but lost, anyway, 28-14, at North Carolina.


Maryland finally won a game -- a 47-34 verdict over Pittsburgh that one college basketball coach in the Byrd Stadium crowd said reminded him of a hoops game between two fast-break teams.

Johns Hopkins finally lost a home game under third-year coach Jim Margraff, the Blue Jays bowing to Gettysburg, 13-10.


At least one team -- Western Maryland -- continued to do what it has done all year: win.

The Green Terrors routed Muhlenberg, 39-0. For the first time since 1968, Western Maryland has won its first four games. Its other victims were Albright, Gettysburg and Ursinus.

The Terrors' start is quite a surprise when you remember that, from last year's team, they graduated Eric Frees, the No. 1 ground gainer in Western Maryland history.

Frees played 40 consecutive games -- he missed only half of one game in four years -- and gained 5,281 yards.

It's clear now why coach Dale Sprague and his staff didn't panic when Frees finished his brilliant career. They knew they had a spectacular replacement in junior Rob Johnson, who returned to school after sitting out last year.

After four games, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Johnson is running ahead of Frees' 1991 pace.

Frees had rushed for 512 yards at that point. Johnson, who had another 187 yards Saturday, has a four-game total of 745 yards.

Frees had 16 touchdowns last year. North Carroll High grad Johnson, with nine, is on a path to top that.


"Eric and Rob are both exceptional backs, and they have some things in common," says Sprague, who has breathed life back into Western Maryland football. "They both have remarkable cutting ability. They're both durable, and they're good blockers.

"But Eric is a step slower than Rob. That's the only difference, that Rob has more straightaway speed. Rob can get around the corner and wave bye-bye to you."

Western Maryland plays at Randolph-Macon Saturday.

* One of Johnson's old teammates at North Carroll, Bill Hoffman, had a big day Saturday kicking for Villanova at Boston U. Hoffman booted three field goals, for nine points, and his Wildcats team won by eight, 22-14. Villanova (4-0) is the No. 2-ranked team in the country in Division I-AA.

Hoffman, a junior, is the son of the Bill Hoffman who was an outstanding athlete at Calvert Hall three decades ago.

Bill Jr., after graduating from North Carroll, spent a year at Kiski Prep near Pittsburgh learning from Chuck Klausing. That's what made him a kicker -- and the recipient of a college football scholarship.


* Orioles P.A. announcer Rex Barney was summoned to the owner's box at a recent game to be introduced to Eli Jacobs' guest, Dick Cheney, the secretary of defense.

I'm not surprised Rex met Cheney, who seems to be a pretty good fellow. I'm just surprised he met the standoffish Jacobs.

* Florida State's successful basketball coach, Pat Kennedy, attended a September ballgame at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and came up with an interesting observation.

Said Kennedy, who loved the place: "No matter who you deal with -- ticket takers, ushers, concessions people -- they all have a smile on their faces."

* Baltimore-born and raised ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan, who was injured in an automobile accident last month while leaving the parking lot after a football game at Florida State, is fully recovered. So is his wife, Lena. Their son, Boo, who was driving, was saved by an air bag.

* Bill Walsh clearly outcoached Lou Holtz Saturday, when his Stanford team beat Notre Dame, 33-16, at South Bend, Ind. Walsh, by doing color on all those Notre Dame telecasts last year, had a head full of data on the Irish and Holtz. He used it wisely.


* The taped intro to ABC-TV's "Monday Night Football" is revolting to me -- 60 seconds of pure violence and brutality from previous NFL games. No parent would want his or her son to play that game. But that's what ABC and the NFL are selling.

Even if you don't plan to watch the Dallas-Philadelphia game tonight, turn on Channel 13 at 9 o'clock to see the opening. If this country finds that stuff appealing, as ABC clearly thinks it does, then Americans are more bloodthirsty than I realized.