Terps stop whispers, for half at least

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- During the first 30 minutes of action, which in the collegiate game these days requires about two hours to complete, the whispers were nowhere to be heard.

Maryland had put together a series of unexpected plays -- shovel passes, slotback screens, etc. -- quarterback Scott Milanovich was hitting his targets, the ball was being caught and the Terps had swept 80 yards to score after receiving the opening kickoff.


Fourth-ranked Florida State, a rather prohibitive favorite (33 points), probably had gotten mixed up on the starting time, which was noon. Yeah, it seems the Seminoles get mixed up on quite a few things, like rules, conduct, regulations, values, directives, ethics and the like.

By the end of the first quarter, the home team was still up, 10-3, the stands were quite full and it had moved the ball farther than the run-and-gun visitors by 30 yards. Jermaine Lewis and Allen Williams were having a ball catching and Brian Underwood needed just one carry to net 18 yards.


The Terrapins' place in the sun wasn't limited to just 15 minutes (a quarter), as Andy Warhol once suggested, either. They moved to a 10-point lead, gave up a couple of scores and fell behind, but regained the lead with a well-executed screen pass that saw Geroy Simon score from 38 yards distant.

Folks with hypersensitive hearing swore they could hear strains of "Happy Days Are Here Again" playing in the background as the Terps headed for the locker room and some long overdue glad-handing and back-slapping.

During intermission, someone had cause to mention Maryland's momentous 42-40 comeback victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl a decade ago. A warm glow was easy to come by on this hot afternoon as yarns of the back-to-back-to-back Atlantic Coast Conference championships in 1983-84-85 were reviewed.

The euphoria began to diminish with the resumption of play as the 'Noles swept 80 yards to a go-ahead score. Five minutes later, they were at it again, going 88 yards this time. Sure, it was fun while it lasted, but now it was time for reality.

"We played like we should in the second half," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said after his team won the second half, 35-0, for a 52-20 victory. "Coming up here and after watching a film of the Duke game [against Maryland], I thought there was no way we could lose."

There wasn't a whole lot more to say about the game save for Bowden allowing that Terps coach Mark Duffner "just has to recruit more football players." Which is easier said than done these days.

The Terrapins, under Duffner, are 5-19 overall, 4-14 in the ACC. Two wins over Duke, one over Wake Forest and a romp over Clemson are the bright spots in the conference. But, remember, Duke scored 49 points against them in the opener. The schedule eases slightly with West Virginia, Wake and Clemson dead ahead, but it's in games that the team figures to do well that the "Red Storm" offense fizzles. The defense is just plain hopeless.

Two recruiting classes Duffner has had to do something about stopping the other guy on occasion, and things appear to be getting worse, not better. For instance, offensive center Jamie Bragg got the call to play a ton of plays on defense Saturday and, late in the game and exhausted, a Seminoles lineman hoisted him up and deposited him on his back . . . during a pass rush.


What, seven or eight dozen scholarship players Maryland has and some of the guys being brought in aren't good enough to get the call late in the game over a player pulling double duty on an energy-sapping afternoon in a game dragging on forever?

"What we need is what Florida State has -- depth," Duffner said. Uh-uh, Mark, more good players who draw the classification of starters come first. Too many of the kids being brought in probably aren't good enough to start with and they're obviously not improving.

The coach's claim that "we're going to be good this year if we continue to display the heart and fight we did today" is wishful thinking. Coming off records of 3-8 and 2-9 and with something similar likely this time around, thousands are asking when the five-year program of Duffner and the Terps begins to kick in.

Even worse is that the athletic department deficit continues to mount so that it now resembles that of a small country and, as everyone knows, the ultimate answer is winning. Or not spending so much and getting value for that which is spent.

For the Terps to spend big dough for the return they're getting these fall afternoons is fully as bad as what's happening down the street with the Fed in Washington.

Whisper . . . conversational tone of voice . . . shout. Anybody got a pair of earplugs they can lend Duffner?