Terps win opener but lose QB Portis

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK -- When Maryland starting quarterback Jordan Steffy jogged off the field at Byrd Stadium last night to visit the trainers' room, former third-string quarterback Chris Turner took over Maryland's offense.

He is now next in line.

Before the season-opening kickoff against Villanova, the athletic department announced that Josh Portis, the Terps' highly hyped backup quarterback, will not play this season because of an "academic issue."

Steffy added to the drama in the third quarter when a cramp in his right leg left him lying on the ground, surrounded by four trainers.

Turner and veteran tailback Keon Lattimore pushed the team forward in his absence - a possible foreshadowing for this team. Eventually Steffy returned, and his play, along with that of Lattimore, helped lead Maryland to a 31-14 win over Villanova before an announced 50,389 at Byrd Stadium.

Portis is "a great player, and with him out, it's definitely going to be tough," Steffy said, "but we're going to continue to fight on."

Steffy, who made his first college start last night, played with poise, and had the most productive debut of any first-time Maryland starter since Brian Cummings in 1995. Steffy completed 19 of 24 passes for 174 yards and one interception, and he also rushed for a 10-yard touchdown with 12:46 left in the game. While he took the first step in proving he's capable of leading Maryland's offense, the key now is for Steffy to stay healthy.

"We won, that's the most important thing," Steffy said. "Hopefully you'll hear me say that a lot more times. I don't know how I was. I'm upset I threw a pick. That's what I'll focus on tonight. But most important we won the game and I think I played all right."

Lattimore, who earned the start last night after impressing coach Ralph Friedgen in preseason camp, validated his promotion with 106 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries.

"I think he's hungry," Friedgen said. "This is his last chance. ... I thought he ran harder than I've ever seen him run here. Some of those touchdowns were just determination to get the ball in the end zone."

As Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis watched his half brother with pride, Lattimore scored on an 18-yard run that put Maryland ahead 24-7 with 2:59 left in the third quarter. The last Terps player to rush for three touchdowns in a game was Mario Merrills at Temple on Oct. 8, 2005.

Lattimore also scored the Terps' first touchdown on a 12-yard run with 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter and caught several key passes out of the backfield. He scored again on the Terps' first drive of the second half, a 14-yard run that put Maryland ahead 17-7.

"I was determined to get in, help the team win, put some points on the board," said Lattimore, who missed the spring with a back injury. "I'm injury-free right now. No nicks and bruises. I'm a hundred percent out there. I gave it my all, anything to help the team win."

The defense played its part, too. The Wildcats came in with a depleted offensive line, as three starters from last year's team graduated, and four players were injured this summer. Villanova started two true freshmen on the offensive line, which might have contributed to the Terps' four sacks of quarterback Antwon Young.

Villanova was held to just 11 rushing yards, and Maryland out-gained the Wildcats 428-187 in total offense.

Young made his first career start last night after playing sparingly in 2005 and redshirting last year, and he was perhaps more productive than Steffy in the first half.

At times, the Wildcats' offense moved with ease, but it wasn't until late in the second quarter that they capitalized on it. Young completed four passes of at least 11 yards each that sustained an 84-yard scoring drive with under three minutes left in the half. He connected with tight end Matthew Sherry for a 26-yard touchdown pass, and the Wildcats went to the locker room at halftime trailing 10-7.

Maryland had at least two clear opportunities to widen that gap in the first half, but junior receiver Isaiah Williams dropped a potential touchdown pass and Steffy threw an interception in the end zone with less than a minute remaining.

But Maryland's defense, which allowed 169 yards in the first half, was staunch in the second. The Terps pushed Villanova back 7 yards on its first two offensive plays in the third quarter and held the Wildcats without a first down or offensive score in the second half.

The Wildcats' lone touchdown in the second half came on a 42-yard interception return by Salim Koroma in the final minute.

"We knew what we needed to accomplish, we knew what we needed to get done," Terps linebacker Erin Henderson said. "We just went out there and executed better in the second half, got that momentum going back our way and kept riding that until we were able to come out the second half like we did."


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