Before the wheels came off the wagon on Saturday, back when the score was still 0-0 and California had gone three-and-out in its first possession, there was an obvious highlight for Maryland.
Kenny Tate, thrown into punt return duties with Tony Logan nursing a shoulder injury back in College Park, had an 18-yard return a little more than two minutes into the game.
So maybe his other two attempts weren’t quite as impressive, since he finished the night with 24 yards. But it leaves an interesting question in front of coach Ralph Friedgen, who seems much more eager to get something beyond the bare bones out of that unit this season.
“I was very pleased with the job he did. we have to look and see if Tony Logan is going to be ready and if he’s going to be able to do it,” Friedgen said. “The thing I was very encouraged by Kenny was not only did he do a good job of catching punts —- and that to me is the first thing, that he had tremendous range in catching punts —- but the first punt he almost broke. If we had just finished a block, he might have popped that thing. One guy got him.”
Tate, who was recruited as a wideout before shifting to safety, clearly knows something about both catching a ball in motion and running in open space.
Then again, so does Logan, who Friedgen anticipates returning from a shoulder injury Saturday against James Madison.
Which is why Friedgen was cautious to praise Tate without doing the same for Logan.
“Tony did a good job in the bowl game,” Friedgen said. “I think Tony gives us something in the return game, but the first thing we have to do is catch the ball. I want to see how Tony is after he gets well.”
—- Patrick Stevens