COLLEGE PARK - You want close? Replay Michael Phelps winning the Olympic 100-meter butterfly. Or watch the presidential election.
Squeakers can be riveting, but the Terrapins and their fans desperately wanted an altogether predictable rout yesterday. They wanted a game to expel any remaining demons from their ghastly upset loss to Middle Tennessee State two weeks earlier.
What Maryland got was a 51-24 victory over Eastern Michigan that soothed much - but not all - of what had been ailing the team.
It was a game in which the Terrapins, weary of media questions about their penchant for letdowns against weaker foes, got to have some fun.
They ran gadget plays. They unleashed backup quarterback Josh Portis, who rushed for 98 yards and scored his first touchdown. They blocked a punt for the first time since 2006. When the game was over, a handful of players leaped into the student section to celebrate a high-scoring win on a sunny day.
The sobering news was that Maryland surrendered 282 passing yards after giving up 423 yards to California quarterback Kevin Riley a week earlier. "I was really surprised we were able to move the ball the way we did," Eastern Michigan coach Jeff Genyk said.
Those statistics are worrisome given that the Terrapins begin their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule next week with a trip to dangerous Clemson. The Terps were playing without three injured regulars in the defensive backfield: Terrell Skinner, Nolan Carroll and Richard Taylor. All but Taylor, who recently had knee surgery, are expected to eventually return.
Maryland's pass defense improved in the second half after the Terps moved their safeties up to help the linebackers in pass coverage.
Terps coach Ralph Friedgen told the players to relish the win, then to immediately begin focusing on Clemson, which has beaten Maryland three of the past four seasons. "I said, 'This is a very big stretch for us. It starts next Saturday down there in Death Valley.' Sometimes I think my expectations may be higher than theirs. Hopefully it will start sinking in."
Eastern Michigan was outclassed by Maryland's raw speed. The most memorable of the mismatches came whenever wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey touched the ball.
Heyward-Bey was a red-jerseyed blur on end-arounds of 46 and 35 yards. His 81 rushing yards were topped only by Portis, who led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive on which his rushes accounted for all 80 yards.
Heyward-Bey's 32-yard touchdown reception put the Terps ahead 24-7 in the second quarter. Quarterback Chris Turner said Heyward-Bey, his first option, ran a double move and the defense couldn't stay with him.
Heyward-Bey also figured into a play in which the Terps made good on Friedgen's midweek promise to use some trickery.
With Maryland ahead 37-24, Heyward-Bey took a handoff in the fourth quarter and lateraled to wide receiver Danny Oquendo. Oquendo pulled up and heaved a 43-yard touchdown pass to an open Isaiah Williams.
Turner said he told Oquendo before the game: "If you throw a touchdown and I don't, we can't be friends anymore." Turner had two touchdown passes.
Maryland had so much fun after the trick play that it was penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration - a flag that troubled Friedgen.
"If that happens again, I'm going to be angry," Friedgen said. "Let me say that again. Angry."
Trailing 34-17, Eastern Michigan threatened to get back into the game after an interception gave the Eagles the ball on their 30-yard line as the fourth quarter opened. Kyle McMahon had completed five passes of 19 yards or more in the first half alone.
But this time the Terps sacked McMahon on fourth-and-12. Maryland countered with a 33-yard field goal by Obi Egekeze to make it 37-17.
Egekeze also converted from 23 and 21 yards, breaking out of an 0-for-5 slump that almost cost him his job. Friedgen jogged to meet Egekeze and wrapped his arm around the kicker's shoulders after the 33-yarder.
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