COLLEGE PARK -- Alabama-Birmingham had an uneasy trip north Friday, when its charter flight was bounced around by Tropical Depression Fran. The jostling continued last night before 30,057 at Byrd Stadium, as the newest member of major-college football was blown away by Maryland, which rolled past the Blazers, 39-15.
Clinging to a 10-7 lead heading into the last minute of the first half, the Terps used a take-away defense and a quick-striking offense to handle an outmanned nonconference opponent for the second straight week.
Four of Maryland's five touchdowns followed UAB turnovers, and the offense wasted little time getting those scores; none required longer than five plays. UAB's first touchdown followed a blocked punt, and the second came with three seconds left, against the Terps' second defense.
Determined to stop Maryland's rejuvenated running game, UAB crowded the line with eight men at times, but the Terps showed that they still had a passing game. Brian Cummings completed 17 of 24 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
The main beneficiary was Geroy Simon, who was able to resume his pursuit of Jermaine Lewis' school and Atlantic Coast Conference records for career receptions. Simon had two catches in the opener, but he got open for nine last night, giving him 161 for his career, 32 shy of Lewis, now a rookie with the Ravens.
Simon also had a career-high 136 yards receiving.
For the second straight week, junior running back Buddy Rodgers was slowed by a thigh injury, but he ran for two touchdowns and caught another. His rushing touchdowns came the third and fourth quarters, and followed fumbles by the Blazers' offense and special teams, respectively.
The special teams recovery followed a UAB safety -- the snap from center on third down from the Terps' 16 went over Cummings' head and into the end zone, where he took a safety.
An interception by freshman linebacker Rashad Smith set up Maryland's last touchdown, a 1-yard dive by Cummings with 2: )) 44 left.
In the first 25 minutes, the question wasn't whether the Blazers would score their first points in Division I-A, but whether they would be able to muster a first down. They got both on successive plays, and in the process gave Maryland a wake-up call after it slept through a special-teams blunder.
UAB's first five possessions netted no first downs, and ended with four punts and a lost fumble that set up Maryland's first touchdown.
With 5: 06 left in the half, however, the Blazers pounced on one of the Terps' many early mistakes. Alexander Adamson busted up the middle and smothered Russell Edwards' punt. The Blazers recovered on the Maryland 31-yard line.
Kevin Drake replaced the harried Rodney Hudson at quarterback. After two shaky plays, Drake didn't find much bite in the Terps' nickel defense on third-and-13, and he connected with Kenny Causey for a 20-yard completion. It was the Blazers' only first down of the first half, and fullback Carl Sanders then scored on an 8-yard run that cut the difference to 10-7 with 3: 47 left in the half.
The Terps defense was back to the 1-2-3 kick routine on the Blazers' next possession, and coach Mark Duffner's confidence in that unit included a couple of Maryland timeouts that allowed Cummings to go to work from his own 46 with 47 seconds left in the half.
Three pass plays, two to Simon and one to Bruce James, quickly got the Terps in the red zone, and Rodgers returned to pull in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cummings with four seconds left in the half.
Maryland's offense wasn't exactly a picture of efficiency at the start. The Terps punted on their first three possessions. The fourth was aided by a UAB penalty for 12 men on the field, but a blitz dumped Cummings on a later third down, and Maryland settled for a 42-yard field goal by Joe O'Donnell, his longest since last September.
Two plays later, the defense set up Maryland's first touchdown.
UAB lost an exchange from center, and free safety Lamont Gore recovered the fumble at the Blazers' 28 with 8: 38 left in the half. On second down from the 27, Simon got behind the UAB secondary, and easily collected the touchdown pass from Cummings.
It was Simon's first touchdown catch in 15 games, since his 43-yarder at Virginia two years ago.
Next for Terps
Opponent: No. 23 Virginia
Site: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
When: Saturday, noon
Yesterday: Beat Central Michigan, 55-21.
Pub Date: 9/08/96