- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

Ralph Friedgen has never been so happy to be called a "liar."

The Maryland coach was adamant during the preseason that his team would not have one featured back. He was quick to point out that several backs would rotate by situations and the position would essentially be tailback by committee.

That was before Bruce Perry went on his running rampage.

The small package of dynamite had 276 yards against Wake Forest as the Terrapins improved to 3-0 with a 27-20 win on Saturday. Maryland is alone atop the ACC with a 2-0 mark, and Perry is the nation's leading rusher with 525 yards and a 175-yard average.

"If he keeps getting 276, you can call me a liar," Friedgen said with a smile on his face after Saturday's game. If this keeps up, the coach may have a role in the sequel to Jim Carrey's movie "Liar. Liar."

The Terps will attempt to show their fast start is not a fluke when West Virginia comes to Byrd Stadium Saturday for the rescheduled game from Sept. 15. Maryland is aiming for its first 4-0 record since 1995. It has not had a 5-0 start since 1978.

There have been major improvements this season, including a suddenly-stingy defense. However, it is the running game, behind an experienced offensive line, that has the Maryland faithful excited.

Because of his small stature and history of minor injuries, Perry, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound sophomore, inspired little confidence at the start of the season. However, he ran for 116 yards in a season-opening win over North Carolina.

Friedgen said there would be no dominant back like LaMont Jordan, who finished his career as the program's leading rusher last season and plays for the New York Jets. The coach questioned Perry's durability, his seemingly-endless nagging injuries that limited him in practice and his running style which he said was more side-to-side than upfield.

But the coach isn't mentioning any of those things now, especially after the Philadelphia product produced touchdown runs of 80 and 50 yards during his 30-carry day against Demon Deacons.

"It's an incredible performance," said Friedgen, whose is in his 33rd year of coaching in either college or the NFL. "The number of long runs he had was tremendous. It was probably the biggest game I've ever been associated with as far as a running back gaining that many yards."

Friedgen said the closest thing he remembers to such a performance was when Terps back Willie Joyner gained 240 yards in an upset of 10th-ranked North Carolina in 1982. Friedgen was Maryland assistant under Bobby Ross at the time.

Perry, however, did not eclipse the program's single-game record of 306 yards which Jordan set against Virginia in 1999, but he did make the Wake Forest record books. The 276 yards are the most rushing yards gained against the Deacons. Former Washington Redskin and South Carolina Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers had the previous record with 237 yards in 1978.

Perry ran for an 80-yard touchdown on the Terps first play when he broke into the secondary before breaking several tackles and racing for the end zone. The slippery sophomore ran for seven first downs in addition to the touchdowns. He also turned two short passes into first downs. His lone blemish was a second quarter fumble, recovered by teammate Guilian Gary.

Not surprisingly, Perry has a couple of nagging injuries from the pounding performance sore ribs and a strained hamstring. Perry left the game temporarily in the fourth quarter due to his ailments, but he soon asked to return.

"I wanted to let Coach know I might be small, but I'm tough," he said.

He is proving that to be the truth.

Notes Friedgen said there were no major injuries from the Wake game. Receiver Jafar Williams has a deep thigh bruise, and defensive tackle Durrand Roundtree has a sprained ankle… . The Terps special teams got a boost as Nick Novak made field goals of 27 and 29 yards. The freshman kicker missed all four of his attempts prior to the Wake game, prompting Friedgen to reopen the competition between Novak and senior Vedad Siljkovic during practice the last two weeks. Novak won the job back. But his Saturday started badly when his first attempt hit the left post from 43-yards out. However, he recovered to make the next two. "I said, 'I am going to stick with this guy,' " Friedgen said. "If he hits one, he's liable to make 20 in a row."

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