- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

The Maryland football team’s season opener Saturday yielded a victory. Whether there was much else to be gleaned from the 27-14 snoozer over William & Mary remains to be seen.

The Terrapins’ rushing attack was impressive behind strong line play and fullback Tim Cesa’s blocking while the passing game was conservative and efficient. And the defense grew tired as the game progressed, a nod to some of the Terps’ foibles from a season ago.

So what — if anything — did the Terps (1-0) learn from their long-anticipated debut?

“They were stunting and blitzing and we handled it all very well,” coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday. “The option play [Lance Ball scored on], that was a check at the line. The fact we were able to do those types of things is encouraging. I’m not disappointed. We just have to show our guys where we can get better.”

That likely will be the legacy of the opener, which provided few clues of how good the Terps could be this season.

Junior Keon Lattimore started and rumbled for 89 yards and a touchdown, and Ball nearly matched him with 86 yards. The pair thrived while repeating many of the same plays, and the Terps had twice as many rushes as passing attempts.

The offense was especially bland inside the 20, where 10 of the Terps’ 12 plays were runs and the other two were short passes to tailbacks Ball and Josh Allen.

“We didn’t even run the whole offense,” right guard Andrew Crummey said. “We were being pretty successful with certain plays. There’s no point to stop running a play if you’re getting yardage on it.”

It provided a low-key acclimation period for the Terps’ young wide receiver corps. Both Danny Oquendo and Isaiah Williams caught long passes to set up first-half touchdowns.

The Terps completed only nine passes, but it hardly mattered against the Division I-AA Tribe. Friedgen saw no reason to continue to throw late in the game, though he knows his receivers must improve as Maryland ventures deeper into its season.

Said quarterback Sam Hollenbach: “I told them after the game we’re going to have games where we’re probably going to need to throw the ball a little bit more. I think they wanted the ball more. I think they felt good out there, and that’s the main thing.”

The Terps’ performance wasn’t out of place during a weekend filled with major-conference teams fine-tuning against overwhelmed foes. On paper, Saturday’s meeting against Middle Tennessee should be another such game before a Sept. 14 trip to No. 5 West Virginia.

If there was a cause for concern, it was backup quarterback Jordan Steffy’s struggles. The sophomore, who redshirted last season, came in for a series in the second quarter with the Terps ahead 17-0 and threw an interception.

Steffy seemed even more nervous when he returned early in the fourth quarter. The reserve lost a fumble and finished 0-for-5 in his first outing since November 2004.

The shaky play didn’t deter Friedgen, who praised Steffy’s play in practice leading up to the opener.

“I’m of the persuasion that if a guy can do it one time, he can do it all the time,” Friedgen said. “I just think it’s a matter of experience with him and I’m not going to get down on him. I’m going to keep working him and see if he can get better.”

Notes — Friedgen said he is optimistic senior wideout Drew Weatherly will return for Wednesday’s practice. Weatherly (right foot) missed the opener and team athletic trainers are uncertain if it is a stress fracture or a recurrence of an old injury. … Friedgen said he thinks right tackle Dane Randolph (sprained ankle) will return in time for Saturday’s game.

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