COLLEGE PARK -- Alabama-Birmingham had an uneasy trip north Friday, when its charter flight was bounced around by tropical storm Fran. The jostling continued last night before 30,057 at Byrd Stadium, as the first-year member of major-college football was blown away by Maryland, 39-15.
Clinging to a 10-7 lead heading into the last minute of the first half, the Terps (2-0) used a take-away defense and quick-striking offense to handle an outmanned non-conference opponent for the second straight week.
Four of Maryland's five touchdowns followed UAB (0-2) turnovers, and the offense wasted little time getting into the end zone -- none of its touchdowns required more than five plays.
"Turnovers are what win football games," junior defensive end Eric Hicks said, succinctly describing Maryland's edge over a program that six years ago was at club status.
"We are not good enough to do that," UAB coach Watson Brown said. "Sometimes turnovers come from being pushed around a little."
Defensively, UAB put as many as eight men in the box, but the Terps relied on their passing game, as Brian Cummings completed 17 of 24 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
Geroy Simon was limited to two catches in the Terps' opener, but he got open for nine last night, giving him 161 for his career, 32 shy of Jermaine Lewis' school and ACC records.
Simon had a career-high 136 yards receiving.
"I think that's my best game as a Maryland Terrapin," Simon said. "Next week against Virginia, I'm going to try to top that."
Junior running back Buddy Rodgers, already slowed by a pulled thigh muscle, sprained an ankle late in the first quarter, but PTC returned with a career-high three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving.
While the offense sputtered at the start, there was little to dislike about Maryland's defense.
UAB didn't get a first down on its first six possessions. Its first touchdown in Division I-A was set up by a block of a Russell Edwards punt, and its second came with three seconds left, at the end of a 76-yard drive against the Terps' second team. Prior to that, Maryland had allowed 152 yards.
UAB's other points came on a safety in the fourth quarter, when the shotgun snap from center went over Cummings' head and into the end zone.
Maryland's offense wasn't exactly a model of efficiency early, as the Terps punted on their first three possessions. The fourth ended with Cummings getting the wind knocked out of him on a third-down blitz, and Joe O'Donnell kicking a 42-yard field goal, his longest since last September.
Two plays later, the turnovers started coming, as fullback Robert Davis lost a fumble, and free safety Lamont Gore recovered at the Blazers' 28. On second down from the 27, Simon got behind the secondary and hauled in his first touchdown catch in 15 games.
The blocked punt set up a four-play, 25-yard drive that got UAB back in the game, but the defense got the momentum right back with a stop in the final minute of the half, and Cummings needed just 43 seconds to move the Terps 54 yards. His 5-yard pass to Rodgers with five seconds left in the half made it 18-7.
A 3-yard touchdown run by Rodgers in the third quarter followed a fumble recovery by defensive tackle Tim Watson. The free kick after the safety resulted in another fumble, with walk-on Jason Apolenis making the hit and freshman Lewis Sanders the recovery. Four plays and 32 yards later, Rodgers had his third touchdown.
Ala.-Birmingham .. 0 ... 7 .. 0 ... 8 .. -- .. 15
A5 Maryland ......... 0 .. 18 .. 7 .. 14 .. -- .. 39
Next for Terps
Site: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
When: Saturday, noon
Last night: Beat Central Michigan, 55-21
Pub Date: 9/08/96