COLLEGE PARK - Quarterback Scott McBrien produced the kind of performance he needed, his defense tore into a feast it craved, and the Maryland Terrapins enjoyed the cakewalk they expected.
A week after suffering a turnover-filled blowout defeat at home against a top-flight opponent in Florida State, the Terps had their way early and often last night by running overmatched Eastern Michigan out of Byrd Stadium, 45-3, before 46,098.
The doormats from the Mid-American Conference never had a chance against Maryland (2-2), which was plenty stirred up and searching for a shot of confidence after stumbling to a 1-2 start under the weight of too many mistakes, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
A year after crushing the Eagles here by 47 points, the Terps staged a pretty good sequel. Their offense, sparked by a career-best night from McBrien, staked Maryland to a 31-0 halftime lead and scored on six of its first seven possessions, including five touchdowns.
The Terps scored the game's first 38 points, doing what they were supposed to do against an Eastern Michigan defense that entered the game allowing an average of 51 points and 537 yards.
When it was over, the Terps had amassed 567 yards of total offense, and the spring was back in their step - starting with McBrien, who completed 14 of 19 passes for career highs of 300 yards and three touchdowns.
"Finally. It's about time," said McBrien, who entered the game with the lowest passing efficiency rating in the Atlantic Coast Conference. "I think our offense came out a little more comfortable, and we all got a little more confident tonight. It's all about having fun, playing football and making plays. When you do that, good things are going to come out of it."
Said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen: "I thought Scott played very well. We worked very hard this week to improve our offense. I realize the competition wasn't the same as last week, but our execution was better. Our timing was better. Our accuracy was better.
"I think [McBrien] threw the ball very accurately, and the big thing I was concerned about was being on time. He was much more decisive tonight. You have to anticipate coverages and where the defender is going to go. You react to what they do. Is he there yet? No. But he made strides tonight. I'm looking for us to grow from here."
McBrien spread the wealth, tossing touchdown passes to three players - wide-outs Steve Suter and Latrez Harrison and tailback Mario Merrills - who had never scored that way.
By the end of the third quarter, the Terps were digging deep into their bench. Backup quarterback Chris Kelley replaced McBrien with 4:20 left. The biggest standout among the backups was freshman tailback Josh Allen, who made his first collegiate appearance count by gaining a team-high 86 yards on 10 carries.
McBrien benefited from the comforts of excellent protection, a sturdy ground game and an Eagles secondary that allowed Maryland receivers to roam free all night, before and after the catch.
Maryland established a presence up front early, as it used the running game to soften up Eastern Michigan and take a 10-0 lead. After Suter returned the opening kickoff 58 yards, thanks to a gaping hole in the right side of the Eagles' coverage, the Terps moved 28 yards in eight plays before settling for a 31-yard field goal by Nick Novak.
McBrien started warming up on the next possession, opening an 80-yard touchdown drive with a great ball fake and a 16-yard completion to Scooter Monroe. Later, after overthrowing Jafar Williams on a deep post pattern, McBrien found him for a 16-yard gain. Three plays later, tailback Chris Downs powered into the end zone for an 8-yard score - his first of two - making it 10-0 with 7:03 left in the first quarter.
The Terps broke the game open with 21 unanswered points in the second quarter, and it began with an unusual sequence. Maryland created long touchdown passes on back-to-back plays, only one of which counted. First, McBrien hit Monroe on the right sideline, where he slipped away from cornerback Michael Woods and sprinted to complete an 82-yard touchdown, but the play was nullified by a holding penalty.
No problem. The Terps got pushed back to their 9-yard line, and on the next play, McBrien hit Suter in the middle of Eastern Michigan's soft zone. The sophomore from North Carroll High did the rest, weaving his way to the end zone on a 91-yard play that marked the first receiving touchdown of his career. That made it 17-0 with 11:56 left in the half.
"I was grinning from ear to ear when I saw the defense they were in," Suter said. "Even when I wasn't in, I was able to watch Scott go to work. He was checking off his reads, going through his progressions. He was on fire tonight."
After Suter's score, Maryland quickly forced a punt, then marched 58 yards in five plays to fuel the rout. Monroe got the drive rolling with a 37-yard catch. Two plays later, after a Terps holding penalty, Downs drifted open over the middle, where McBrien found him for a 22-yard strike. After a pass interference call on Eastern Michigan, Downs scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run.
The Terps finished off the Eagles (1-3) with an 11-play, 73-yard drive to take a 31-0 lead with 1:20 left in the half. McBrien completed five of six passes for 68 yards on the drive, culminating in a 14-yard touchdown over the middle to Merrills.
Eastern Michigan had only one legitimate chance to get into the end zone. But after driving 87 yards on four plays midway through the first quarter, Eagles quarterback Troy Edwards took a tremendous hit by Jamahl Cochran and was picked off by cornerback Domonique Foxworth along the sideline at the Maryland 1-yard line.
"We didn't need to help them. They're a good enough team," said Eagles coach Jeff Woodruff. "But we certainly did."
NOTES: Terps third-string quarterback Orlando Evans suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury late in the game and was helped off. He will be re-evaluated today. ... Backup fullback Bernie Fiedler suffered a shoulder sprain and did not return. ... Freshman wide-out Danny Melendez (two catches, 15 yards) played his first game, but the debut of the night belonged to Allen. Said Friedgen: "I think we found another player tonight. He elevated himself." ... Junior tailback Bruce Perry (groin) is expected to play in his first game Saturday against Wofford.
Next for Terps
Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Yesterday: Beat Georgia Southern, 14-7