4-0 Terps drop Duke, 41-28 Cummings bolsters QB case with 299-yard effort; UM's best start in 17 years; Milanovich due back, but Duffner praises soph's 'special poise'


COLLEGE PARK -- Brian Cummings handled a sprained ankle against North Carolina, the rain against West Virginia and, last night, the blitz package of Duke.

How will he deal with being benched, if in fact that's his fate, when Scott Milanovich returns for Thursday night's nationally televised date at Georgia Tech?

"I'm in the glory of my life, but I won't be that disappointed," said Cummings, after he led Maryland to a convincing 41-28 victory over Duke before 41,013 at Byrd Stadium.

Milanovich, who was suspended for four games for violating NCAA gambling rules, is the most prolific passer in Maryland history. But with Cummings at quarterback, No. 24 and rising Maryland is 4-0 for the first time since 1978; it last was 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1988.

Though sources close to Milanovich said he received assurance from Mark Duffner in July that he would start when he returned, the coach repeatedly has said that decision would be based on performance.

All Cummings did last night was carve up an ailing Blue Devils defense over the last three quarters. The 544 yards total offense were Maryland's most in two years. The sophomore from Eastchester, N.Y., had his surest game of the season, completing 19 of 27 for 299 yards -- all career highs -- with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

"Brian's improved each week," said Duffner, who could name a starter as early as today. "I think his poise out there tonight and his confidence in making plays was real special."

Cummings wasn't the only cool head the Terps sent out. Maryland scored three touchdowns in a seven-minute span of the second quarter, invited Duke back in it with a fumble, but came up with some timely defensive stops and one last touchdown drive to ice its closest call of this magical season.

This team has been able to take tough situations, stay together and keep their poise," Duffner said. "In the end, there was a statement we had to make, in terms of getting back in control."

After its first three possessions resulted in a lost fumble and two punts, the Terps offense had a firm grip, as Maryland scored on seven of its next eight possessions.

Cummings' favorite target was senior wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, who had nine catches for 205 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore superbacks Buddy Rodgers and Brian Underwood gained 103 and 88 yards, respectively.

Duke (2-2, 0-2) protected the ball after a first-quarter fumble against a defense that had forced 14 turnovers in Maryland's first three games, but it was still another solid night for a unit that two years ago was the nation's worst. The Blue Devils were limited to 341 yards, and had to drive only 6 yards for their second touchdown.

"We couldn't say it out here, but in the locker room, we were talking payback all week," sophomore linebacker Ratcliff Thomas said, referring to Duke's 49-16 rout of Maryland in the 1994 opener.

Thomas and company let the Blue Devils know early that things were going to be different this time. Geroy Simon lost a fumble at the Terps' 20-yard line on their first possession, but Duke was limited to a field goal.

That was all the scoring in the first quarter, but five touchdowns were crammed into the second. The Terps moved 81 yards on their fourth possession, the finishing touch being an innocent outside screen from Cummings that Lewis turned into a 45-yard touchdown.

Ahead 7-3, Maryland never trailed again. A 44-yard pass to Lewiwas stopped only by the sideline on the Terps' next try, which finished with Rodgers and the short-yardage offense going the last 4 yards. Black Thunder wasn't needed on Maryland's next possession, as Cummings led wide-open freshman Bruce James for a 48-yard touchdown pass and a 21-3 lead.

That lead matched the Terps' biggest of the season, but Duke fought back with two touchdowns in 48 seconds, courtesy of a fumble by stellar cornerback Chad Scott on the kickoff return unit.

Scott's fumble came after an 80-yard touchdown drive by the Blue Devils, who needed to go only 6 yards with the turnover to make it 21-18 at the half.

But Cummings moved the Terps 60 and 90 yards to swell the lead to 32-18.

Quarterback Spence Fischer kept the Blue Devils in it with a 68-yard touchdown drive that required more than six minutes.

After an exchange of field goals, Duke, which converted one o14 third downs, drove to the Terps' 39 with 4:35 left, but on fourth-and-three, tackle Johnnie Hicks and safety Lamont Gore pressured Fischer into an incompletion.

Duke .. .3 15 0 10 -- 28

Maryland 0 21 11 9 -- 41

D -- FG Cochran 24

M -- Lewis 45 pass f. Cummings (O'Donnell kick)

M -- Rodgers 4 run (O'Donnell kick)

M -- James 48 pass f. Cummings (O'Donnell kick)

D -- Marshall 1 run (Cochran kick)

D -- Marshall 2 run (Wilson pass from Fischer)

M -- FG O'Donnell 19

M -- Strozier 1 run (Simon pass from Cummings)

D -- Fischer 1 run (Cochran kick)

M -- FG O'Donnell 25

D -- FG Cochran 33

M -- Rodgers 21 run (kick failed)

A -- 41,013.

.. ... ... .. .. .. ..Duke .. .. .Md

First Downs .. ... .. 19 .. ... ..24

Rushes-Yards .. .. .. 41-167 .41-245

Passing .. ... ... ...174 .. ... 299

Return Yards .. ... ..0 .. ... .. 26

Comp-Att-Int .. ... .18-36-0 19-27-0

Punts .. ... ... ... 5-41 .. ..3-26

Fumbles-Lost .. ... ..1-1 .. ... 4-2

Penalties-Yards .. .. 7-47 .. ..5-57

Time of Possession .. 32:19 .. 27:41

Rushing -- Duke, Marshall 31-115, Fischer 8-45, London 2-7. Maryland, Rodgers 13-103, Underwood 9-88, Simon 3-29, Strozier 4-3.

Passing -- Duke, Fischer 18-36-0-174. Maryland, Cummings 19-27-0-299.

Receiving -- Duke, Khayat 6-38, Opalenick 5-37, Wilson 3-25, DeOrio 1-29, Thomas 1-29, Marshall 1-8, Owens 1-8. Maryland, Lewis 9-205, James 4-67, Johnson 3-15, Simon 2-3, Rodgers 1-9.

Next for Maryland

Opponent: Georgia Tech

Site: Grant Field/Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Record: 1-2

Yesterday: Idle

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