COLLEGE PARK -- After six weeks in which they were welcome relief for opposing offenses, the Maryland defense stepped up.
The Terps came into yesterday's game against Duke allowing an average of 51.2 points and 606.5 yards, both well beyond the NCAA records, but they held the upper hand against a Duke offense that has scored just four touchdowns in its past four games. Maryland gave up 366 yards, 86 on the Blue Devils' lone touchdown drive and 54 on a prevent coverage at the end of the half.
"We know we're better than the worst defense in the nation," said cornerback Orlando Strozier, one of three freshmen who started in the secondary. "We proved it today, that we can hold an opponent. If they were going to score, let them have field goals, but no big plays."
The Terps established themselves on Duke's first possession, when linebackers Ratcliff Thomas and Erick Wood hurried starting quarterback Joe Pickens into incompletions. Thomas had a team-high 12 tackles, and freshman free safety Lamont Gore had 11.
"Maryland's defense is better than how many points they've given up," Duke coach Barry Wilson said. "Just because they have freshmen in their secondary doesn't mean a thing. We helped them. Every time we tried to throw we screwed up."
End Jaime Flores and tackle Sharrod Mack, who earlier batted down three passes, came through with big sacks on Duke's final possession.
"I was really emotional at the end," said Flores, a senior. "Before that last drive, I told the younger guys this means more to me than anything. They saw the emotion I was putting out, and they knew what it meant."
Defensive coordinator Larry Slade said the Terps used more players than usual, and the offense did the same.
The Terps used seven offensive lineman in the first half for the first time this year, and besides starter Mark Mason, who had 21 carries for 84 yards, three other players got time at superback. Junior college transfer Allen Williams got his first carries of the season, and Doug Burnett and Kameron Williams also had important runs.
Busy day for Milanovich
After struggling against Penn State and Georgia Tech, quarterback Scott Milanovich resumed his record-setting pace.
Milanovich got his 17th and 18th touchdown passes, equaling the single-season mark set by Boomer Esiason in 1982. With four games remaining, his 2,620 yards for the season are the third-best in Maryland history.
Milanovich said earlier in the week that shorter routes would be open against Duke, and he threw primarily under their coverage when he completed his first 11 attempts of the second half. He finished 29 of 36, an 80.5 percentage that was the second-best single-game rate by a Maryland quarterback.
Milanovich hurt his right shoulder at Virginia Tech three weeks ago and banged up his ribs against Georgia Tech last week. He received more bruises yesterday, but showed no wear and tear.
The Atlantic Coast Conference's leading punter, Milanovich had to kick three straight times on one series in the second quarter. A 53-yarder and a 57-yarder were negated by Terps penalties, so he finally got it right with a 58-yard punt.
Lewis goes down
Sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Lewis left early in the third quarter when he aggravated an ankle sprain. Five of his six catches came in the second quarter, including a 47-yard touchdown catch in which he appeared to land on the 1-yard line and bounce into the end zone. It was his seventh touchdown catch of the season.
Milanovich's other touchdown pass came courtesy of Jason Kremus, who caught a short pass and followed a wedge of blockers for 67 yards on the game's fourth play. Russ Weaver led the Terps with seven catches, and freshmen Andrew Carter, Jermaine Stewart and Walt Williams all had multiple-catch games.
Stanley Dorsey, a senior wide receiver out of McDonogh School, led Duke with three catches for 77 yards, but 54 came at the end of the first half with the Terps in a prevent defense.