COLLEGE PARK -- The Wofford Terriers were a curiosity that landed at Byrd Stadium last night, a tiny Division I-AA school dreaming of slaying a dragon by comparison.
And for a brief period of time, the Maryland Terrapins actually were locked in a legitimate battle with this pesky group from South Carolina.
But it didn't take long for reality, physics and talent to take over as Maryland shook off a sluggish start offensively, asserted itself with a dominant second quarter, scored the game's first 30 points, then settled for a 37-8 victory before an announced crowd of 44,098.
Maryland (3-2) climbed above the .500 mark for the first time this season and set its sights on this week's road trip to West Virginia with a performance that alternated between impressive and uneven, although there was never a doubt that the Terps would avoid a most embarrassing upset in front of their fans.
Wofford, which suffered its first defeat, brought its unorthodox triple-option offense, threw some unexpected zone pass coverages at the Terps, and had Maryland a little off balance early. But the Terriers (3-1), who live and die by the run, never could begin to mount a comeback after falling behind 20-0 at the half.
The Terps mostly kept things simple, using their advantages up front by rolling up 250 yards rushing on 50 carries.
Senior tailback Chris Downs, starting his fourth straight game in place of the injured Bruce Perry, gained a career-high 147 yards and scored a touchdown on 22 attempts to set the tone.
Freshman Josh Allen added 63 yards and two scores. Quarterback Scott McBrien threw for 128 yards and ran for 38.
The rest of the night belonged to Maryland's defense, which knocked out tailback Jesse McCoy in the second quarter, took out tight end Adam Regenthal on a crushing hit by safety Madieu Williams, got an 11-tackle night from middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, and generally controlled Wofford up front.
Only a fourth-quarter, 18-play, 92-yard touchdown drive and a late safety by the Terriers foiled Maryland's shutout bid.
"Wofford is very scrappy, tough team. I thought our defense played exceptionally, especially in the first half. We gave them one long drive," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Offensively, we had some good spots and some bad, but overall I was pleased. I think we've still got to get better in our passing game."
The Terps had some trouble early moving the ball through the air, as Wofford dropped seven or eight defenders into coverage and presented some problems for McBrien, who completed 11 of 19 attempts.
But while McBrien plugged away with productive runs and smarter decisions, he always had a bruising line to fall back on, along with Downs.
With Perry sitting out his fifth straight game -- he aggravated his injured groin muscle in practice on Wednesday and is expected to play on Saturday -- Downs took advantage of gaping holes in the Terriers' front seven.
"I did OK. I missed a few cuts, but the big guys up front did it all tonight," Downs said.
Maryland, which also got three field goals from Nick Novak, including a 50-yarder in the third quarter, started with a bit of a stagger. The Terriers forced two Maryland punts in the first quarter, and the Terps did not sustain their other two early drives, settling for field goals from 39 and 43 yards to take a 6-0 lead.
But in the second quarter, McBrien settled down and Maryland set about pounding the Terriers at the line of scrimmage. On the Terps' opening possession, McBrien mixed the pass and the run -- including some of his own -- sharply. McBrien's 13-yard run and an 18-yard pass to Steve Suter were the big plays of the march.
Downs finished the drive, using a nice block by fullback Chad Killian -- who later left the game with a sprained right knee -- to get him into the end zone and give the Terps a 13-0 lead with 9:57 left in the half.
The Terps then forced a punt and showed who was boss by drilling Wofford with a six-minute touchdown drive that took them 85 yards in 16 plays, 14 of which were rushes. Downs accounted for 45 yards during the march, which ended when Allen scored from the 1 with 14 seconds left, giving the Terps a 20-0 lead at the break.
"The running game was working. We were getting in and out of the huddle pretty quickly, and their defensive line were on their hands and knees. If something isn't broke, don't fix it," said McBrien, who transferred to Maryland from West Virginia and will face his original school on Saturday. "Now it's a new season."
Wofford showed some life with its lone scoring drive, but the Terriers had no passing game coming in, and they had no chance to catch up without one last night. Three different quarterbacks, led by Jeff Zolman, managed 54 yards through the air.
"We were treating every down like a run down," said Terps nose guard C.J. Feldheim, who had a busy night with five tackles, three for losses. "Even on third-and-15, we treated it like third-and-one. We pretty much shut them down."
NOTES: Killian is questionable for the West Virginia game. ... With a second-quarter sack of Wofford quarterback Jeff Zolman, Henderson set a school record by recording his 43rd career tackle for a loss. The record was held by former teammate Aaron Thompson, who finished his Maryland career last year. ... Regenthal suffered a concussion midway through the second quarter and was knocked out cold by Williams on the Terriers' sideline after a 9-yard reception. Regenthal did not return.
Next for Terps
Opponent: West Virginia
Site: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va.
When: Saturday, noon
Yesterday: Beat East Carolina, 37-17