- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

Bruce Perry made an instant impression when he first came to the University of Maryland three years ago. The Philadelphian brought a lively, joke-cracking personality with a stylish look.

"A lot of people called him 'pretty boy' when he came here," Maryland tight end Jeff Dugan said, "but it was far from the truth."

These days Perry has slickly cropped hair and a small goatee. Teammates say he resembles a movie character. The sophomore tailback is still quick to flash a playful smile but now is becoming known more for his on-field accomplishments rather than his clowning off it.

Perry is the nation's leading rusher, averaging 169.5 yards a game heading into today's showdown with Virginia at Byrd Stadium for sole possession of first place in the ACC. The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder has proved to be versatile and explosive as he carries the load for the 25th-ranked Terps, who own a shiny 4-0 (2-0 ACC) record.

The compact fireball has been barreling through people and using his breakaway speed to dissect defenses. Perry is the first sophomore in program history to run for more than 100 yards in his first four games, and only the third to have four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. He racked up 276 yards against Wake Forest, and totaled 153 on 31 carries in last week's triumph over West Virginia. The Cavaliers (3-1, 2-0 ACC) are next up in trying to unplug the little dynamo.

"I don't know if he's been that hard to see, but he's certainly been hard to tackle," said Virginia coach Al Groh, whose rushing defense is eighth in the ACC, allowing 182.5 yards a game. "He's got excellent vision. I think he's got an excellent quick lateral cut-in. In some fashion, all the top runners have that quick lateral cut and then get right back up the field in a hurry. He's certainly demonstrated that."

That Perry had great speed and quick moves was never in question. On the other hand, whether he was powerful and durable enough was very much in doubt coming into the season. He had a history of getting injured, and missed part of spring practice with a sore shoulder and time in the preseason with a strained hamstring.

Perry won the starting job in a scrimmage about 10 days before the season opener and has run wild since. He ran for 116 yards as the Terps pulled a mild upset over North Carolina to open the year before garnering 133 yards and three touchdowns in a romp over Eastern Michigan. Over the two most recent games, he piled up 427 yards. He is averaging 6.9 yards over his 98 carries this season.

The tailback is still banged up, and playing with sore ribs. He said the hamstring has improved. Perry has taken it easy in some practices but hasn't missed a session since the season began. He said he's learned to work mind over matter, put the pain aside on game day.

"I just try not to even think about it," said Perry, who was redshirted last season. "I just try to go out and think only about football."

The pain probably hasn't been quite as piercing lately because of the team's success. Perry has become a crowd favorite as chants of "Bruuuce" cascaded down from the stands every time he touched the ball last week. The jokester is even being teased by teammates for his newfound celebrity.

"I was in the weight room the other day and they were screaming it," said Perry, of players mimicking the crowd's chant. "They tried to embarrass me in the dining hall and going to class."

Perry, whose father is a Philadelphia fireman and mother is a police detective, said he received 40 scholarship offers before selecting the Terps. He passed on several Top 25 programs like Florida and Wisconsin who wanted him to switch to defensive back.

He appears to be taking his fame in stride has, but also gets help keeping his ego in check. Maryland's coaches have given Perry few compliments after watching small successes go to his head in the past. Running backs coach Mike Locksley has implemented what he terms a "no-love" policy making sure to point out Perry's mistakes and riding him to do better.

As for the tailback, he wouldn't want it any other way.

"Every time [Locksley] gives me a compliment, I end up messing up," said Perry, a criminal justice major. "I told him, 'I don't want any more compliments from you.' That's my downfall. I want 'no love.' I told him of all the people, he is the one I want on my case."

Perry said he feels a bond between he and Locksley but would never call it a special one "because then he would call me soft."

Soft is what Perry has been making defenses these days. The slippery sophomore has been going out of his way to lower the shoulder and punish would-be tacklers, while gaining extra yards by grinding.

"I particularly like the way he's finishing off," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who had previously criticized Perry's size, durability and running style. "He's not just letting people drag him down. You never see him get knocked backwards. He fights for every yard he gets. He's doing everything and more than I thought he could."

Friedgen makes sure to make his flattering remarks when Perry is not in earshot. Perry jokes that that's a good idea. There have even been whispers of a Heisman candidacy in College Park, but Perry has heard those rumblings and wants no part of them. Listening to that kind of praise could only get him into trouble.

"I don't want to bask in the glory," he said, "because that's how you get bad."

Notes Maryland linebacker Marlon Moye-Moore, found guilty of second-degree assault last week, was given probation before judgement yesterday by a Prince George's County circuit court judge. The senior was given one year of probation and fined $150 plus court costs. He rejoined the team this week after being suspended since charges were filed in February

Monte Graves will start at middle linebacker for the Terps instead of E.J. Henderson, who is being penalized after being arrested by campus police for DWI earlier this week. Henderson will play, according to Friedgen. Henderson, a junior, is the team's leading tackler and was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week last week.

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