FROSTBURG -- The weeks and the victories are rolling by like a blur now, and the state's only undefeated college football team pauses to analyze its surprising success.
The raw data is impressive. In their second year under coach Mike McGlinchey, the Bobcats of Frostburg State University have used unlikely combinations to achieve a 7-0 record that has them dreaming of their first trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs. They are ranked second in the South Region.
The Bobcats have turned football convention on its ear. Consider, for instance, that they start only four seniors, including one on offense. After losing 10 starters from last year's 6-3-1 team, the Bobcats did not figure to be perfect in late October.
Take a look at junior quarterback Gilbert Telleria, who is so small -- 5 feet 9, 155 pounds -- that he occasion ally disappears among the bigger bodies on the field. That he bench-presses 300 pounds tells you something about his work ethic and his toughness. That he averages 4.9 yards per rush, 23.1 yards per pass completion and has had a direct hand in 10 touchdowns tells you plenty about the way he runs the Bobcats' wing-T offense.
Take a look at free safety Russell Williams, a 6-1, 200-pound senior who looks like he could play defensive end. The Bobcats )) have given up only 15 points a game and have an uncanny ability to produce big plays, forcing 26 turnovers. Williams, with 61 tackles and 10 pass deflections -- both team highs -- and two interceptions, has been their leader.
"The way they don't accept defeat is probably the thing that surprises me the most about them," McGlinchey said. "It's hard to teach a team to respond to challenges, especially a young team. When push comes to shove, they don't back down. Something bad will happen, and three or four plays later, we're rolling again."
Nothing bad that has happened on the field can match the pain the Bobcats were dealt before their first game. Two weeks before the season opener, assistant coach Lawren Williams, 26, died in a car accident.
In two years, Williams had become a favorite among the players and coaching staff, a guy known for his singing, sense of humor and warmth, not to mention his football knowledge and blunt honesty toward the defensive linemen he coached. His death sent the Bobcats into an intense period of grief.
Telleria and Russell Williams dismiss statistics while trying to explain the Bobcats' success. When Lawren Williams is mentioned, however, they perk up, and the reasons for their fortune seem clearer to them. Their observations turn to the spiritual, to "the rock."
To memorialize Lawren Williams, local strip-mine owner Albert Winner donated a stone to the school last month. The stone, 4 feet by 4 feet, is positioned at the team entrance to Bobcat Stadium. There, the players touch the rock as they take the field. Soon, a plaque will be affixed to the rock. It will contain a phrase coined by Lawren Williams: "What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve."
"We think about him [Lawren Williams] a lot. Everyone knows that he's always in our hearts," Russell Williams said. "When you walk out on that field and touch that rock, you get that chill in your body, and the thought of him being there is all around you.
"After it [his death] happened, we had no intention of losing. If anything, it made us have a more beastly type of attitude toward the game," Williams said. "From that point on, we made a vow to control our destiny."
Telleria added: "It's like a magic that fills each of us. We get inspired by trying to make him proud. . . . He makes us dedicated to being the best team we can be."
The Bobcats' foundation is an offense built on depth and changing looks -- a wishbone formation here, a two-tight-end set there, a power-I here, a pro set there. The attack is tied to Telleria's decision-making while running the option and to the speed and depth of the backfield. The Bobcats average 252 yards rushing, yet their top ground gainer, senior Kevin Bellamy, has a modest 443 yards. Kermit Nored (260 yards), Shawn Freeman (289), Andre Parker (199) and Telleria share the load.
Telleria has thrown only 80 passes, but has completed 41 for 948 yards and seven touchdowns. Wide receiver Ariel Bell leads the team with 15 receptions for 346 yards and two touchdowns.
"It's hard to be an All-American in this offense," McGlinchey said. "No one carries the ball 28 times a game, and we don't throw the ball 40 times. We create smoke screens. We do a few simple things from a lot of different looks."
The Bobcats have outscored opponents in the first half, 142-30. The offense is averaging 32 points.
They also have a knack for producing the timely, big play. After struggling for a half last month at Salisbury State, Telleria and Bell broke the Sea Gulls with long passes in the second half en route to a 34-21 victory. Two weeks ago, Wesley appeared ready to score a second early touchdown when Williams intercepted a pass in the end zone and raced 100 yards for a score that sparked Frostburg State to a 35-26 victory.
That tenacity especially impresses McGlinchey, who has a 74-40-4 career record. After coaching at Salisbury State 1982 to 1986 and at Central Connecticut 1987 to 1991, he came to Frostburg State last year.
"In some ways, we still play like a young team," he said. "The thing is, we have guys who can play at a national level. They don't do anything great. They just do everything well.
"People think too small sometimes. If you don't expect great things out of yourself, you don't have a chance. We have something special here. Somebody has to win the national championship. It might as well be us."
COLLEGE FOOTBALL TODAY
IN THE AREA . . .
Time ............ Game .......... .......... .......... TV
Noon ........ Notre Dame (8-0) vs. Navy (4-3) ......... 13
12:10 p.m. .. Maryland (1-6) at Clemson (5-2) ......... 7, 25
2 p.m. ...... Morgan State (2-5) at Florida A&M; (3-4).. BET
7:30 p.m. ... Towson State (5-1) at Hofstra (3-3-1) ... None
. . . AND AROUND THE COUNTRY
12:30 p.m...No. 24 Michigan (4-3) at No. 21 Wisconsin (6-1)... ESPN
3:30 p.m....No. 12 Penn State (5-1) at No. 3 Ohio State (7-0). 13, 7
7:30 p.m....No. 13 West Virginia (6-0) at Syracuse (4-2-1) .... ESPN
10:30 p.m. .. No. 7 Arizona (7-0) at No. 15 UCLA (5-2) ........ ESPN
* Local Div. II, III capsules, 7C
* What's on television and radio, 2C