As a starting quarterback, Davenport is still startling UNC's Gator Bowl MVP passes for 281 yards, 2 TDs


COLLEGE PARK -- As quarterback Oscar Davenport strolled off the field, a crowd of about 200 North Carolina fans feverishly chanted, "Oscar! Oscar!" and snapped photos of this year's Tar Heels hero. A few steps ahead of Davenport, Chris Keldorf, the Tar Heels' starter last year when he was the All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice, walked into the locker room seemingly unnoticed.

In the most-talked-about quarterback controversy in college football today, Davenport is hot. Keldorf is not.

"It's a great situation for us," North Carolina Mack Brown said. "We're very fortunate. Both quarterbacks will continue to play. We'll go with the hot hand. It would be a worse situation if I just had one."

Davenport, who been nearly flawless in two relief appearances this season, completed his first five passes in his first start of the season yesterday and finished 21 of 33 for 281 yards and two touchdowns. For the year, he has completed 72 percent of his passes (36 of 50) for 438 yards.

Davenport, who was the Gator Bowl MVP in his first collegiate start on Jan. 1 when Keldorf was injured, rarely panicked, throwing the ball to seven receivers and connecting four times with Jason Peace, a third option on a majority of the Tar Heels' passing plays. In a decisive possession midway through the third quarter, he took the Tar Heels from their 6-yard line into the end zone on three passes to give them a 24-7 advantage.

"I had a pretty good performance, but I made some mistakes," Davenport said. A 6-foot-4, 195-pound junior, he was told Thursday that he would get his second career start. "I'm going to try to minimize those mistakes to help us out for the next game. Whoever the coaches choose, we'll just stick with it."

Keldorf remains upbeat after a tumultuous start of the season. He has made four turnovers in two starts and has misfired on 46 percent of his passes.

He entered yesterday on North Carolina's third drive, threw two passes behind his receivers and didn't return until the fourth quarter with the game already decided.

"All I can do is: When I get the opportunity, I have to do my job," said Keldorf, a senior who became the first North Carolina quarterback in a decade to lead the ACC in passing. "[Davenport] was awesome today. Obviously, something is working. We're 3-0 and the goal is to win games. I just have to roll with the punches."

But from the Maryland perspective, it doesn't seem like much of a debate.

"If they have a controversy, it ended today," Terps inside linebacker Eric Barton said.

The height of absurdity

L. C. Stevens, who caught nine passes for 114 yards, didn't become Davenport's favorite target just because they're roommates. Stevens, 6-5, had an 8-inch height advantage over Maryland cornerback Lynde Washington.

Davenport found Stevens five times for 65 yards in the first half.

"Actually, I didn't think about it a bit," Stevens said of his height advantage. "My mentality is just to go out, step on their toes and do my job. It doesn't matter who is covering me."

Et cetera

Senior defensive end Eric Ogbogu did not play in the second half, but there was no Maryland injury report. The 90-yard touchdown return by Lewis Sanders was the first by the Terps since 1994, when Geroy Simon brought one back 94 yards against North Carolina State. Brian Underwood became the 19th Maryland player to rush for 1,000 yards in his career.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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