COLLEGE PARK - Ralph Friedgen and James Franklin would like to once again remind everybody that they're not idiots. They do not go into every Maryland game thinking, "If there's one guy we don't want getting his hands on the football, it's that fast No. 8."
So, no, the coach and offensive coordinator said in the afterglow of a 26-0 victory over 21st-ranked Wake Forest, they didn't just dream up the idea yesterday morning to throw the ball early and often to Darrius Heyward-Bey.
It just never worked as well as it did yesterday at Byrd Stadium. No defense gave the Terps the chance to make it work the way Wake's did. In no other games were there so many chances to get Heyward-Bey touches. At no other time could Maryland set the tone and impose its will as quickly and permanently.
"I know you guys don't believe it," Franklin said with a grin - and with his baby daughter, Ava, squirming in his lap - "but that is part of the plan every week."
The plan has been fine; the execution, not so much. It wasn't lack of effort, they swore. Sometimes Heyward-Bey couldn't get open, sometimes Chris Turner didn't throw a good-enough pass when he did get open, sometimes someone else got open (because defenses are so focused on Heyward-Bey).
No explanations were needed yesterday, though. In their latest hour of need, facing the team they had to hurdle to get back into the Atlantic Coast Conference race and one that hadn't given up a touchdown pass all season, the Terps turned their "if" player into a "when."
On the first play from scrimmage, then the third play, then the fourth play, then, triumphantly, the ninth play, the option-pass touchdown from Da'Rel Scott. All short stuff, pure West Coast, nothing tricky, nothing designed to break big gains. Just to say: "I'm here all day, on every play, moving the sticks. No disappearing this week."
Of course, Heyward-Bey did squeeze in a long one, a Lynn Swann-esque juggling, falling 41-yard catch in the second quarter with one of the premier cornerbacks in the country, Alphonso Smith, as one of the two defenders on him. And after not realizing the ball was coming his way until he "heard the 'oooooh,' " from the crowd, he said with a grin.
Two catches on that drive, five in the first quarter, eight in the first half, a career-high 11 (for 101 yards) in the game - one fewer than he had caught the entire season coming in. This new, advanced use of this game-changer really changed the game. Wake was not equipped to handle him. Maryland was equipped to handle whatever Wake tried to handle him with.
"That's how it is out in practice," Heyward-Bey said. "We throw the ball around, get the ball to certain people. It's just fun to go out there and try to make plays for my teammates."
Just not as much fun when they lose and he goes the whole game with barely a glimpse of the ball - or not seeing it at all, as it was at Virginia two weeks before in that 31-0 debacle.
"Each week, we have a game plan," Heyward-Bey said, "so that every day and every game I go out thinking, 'The first ball is going to me.' Even if I'd caught 20 passes against Virginia, I'm still going out thinking, 'The first ball of the game is going to me.' "
It actually happened this week, and the entire team blossomed.
"I'm happy he had a good day like this," Friedgen said. "I'm even happier we won the game."
They might even get a week off from the usual "When are you going to get the ball to Heyward-Bey more" question.
Franklin chuckled. "Maybe," he said.
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* Based on their reaction to John Harbaugh's complimentary remarks about Cam Cameron, last season's Miami Dolphins were not only sorry, but they were also soft and super-sensitive. Hey, this bulletin-board stuff is fun.
* If nothing else, the tender Fish sound like they don't fit Harbaugh's description of "mighty men."
* The Phillies had better win the World Series, or else the Philadelphia fans will never forgive Donovan McNabb.
* If you weren't sure that Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is old-school, try to remember the last time you heard someone use the word "pansy." An All in the Family rerun, maybe?
* Of course Barry Bonds wasn't a victim of collusion this past season. Major league teams made individual, informed decisions in their best interests when they signed Jay Gibbons (washed-up, admitted drug user) and Richie Sexson (overpaid, complete stiff) instead.