- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

"5-0." "Bruce 4 Heisman." "#1 in the ACC."
Those were just some of the signs found inside Byrd Stadium yesterday. Most of the 44,197 spectators stayed around despite a lopsided game to celebrate Maryland's best start to a season since 1978 as the 25th-ranked Terrapins stomped archrival Virginia 41-21 for their fifth consecutive victory.
Most red-clad fans did the wave to celebrate as the sun came out in the fourth quarter and vigorously sang "Hey, Hey, Goodbye" to the Cavaliers and the nasty streak they brought to College Park. Some 100 students rushed the field in euphoria when the game ended.
"It does feels like a dream," said senior linebacker Aaron Thompson after the Terps snapped a nine-game losing streak to Virginia. "I think I want to stay asleep. I don't want to wake up anytime soon."
Maryland also improved to 3-0 in the ACC to take sole possession of first place. The Cavaliers (3-2, 2-1 ACC) began the day as the conference's only other undefeated team but never fully recovered after the Terps' Curtis Williams blocked a punt for a touchdown to give Maryland a 24-7 lead at halftime.
Sophomore tailback Bruce Perry continued his season-long rampage with 143 yards rushing, becoming the program's second player to rush for 100 yards in the first five games of a season, joining Steve Atkins, who had seven straight in 1978. After a slow start, the Terps' air game also got untracked, with Perry (eight catches, 51 yards) a prime target on short passes from quarterback Shaun Hill.
With its dazzling start, Maryland has all but assured itself of a bowl appearance for the first time since 1990. The Terps are only one victory away from becoming bowl eligible, and with winless Duke and lightly regarded Troy State coming to Byrd, only a colossal collapse could cost them a postseason date.
"It's just amazing how much can change in one season," said receiver Guilian Gary, who had five catches for 99 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown as the Terps went ahead 17-7. Hill completed 22 of 35 for 237 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 47 yards. However, the senior started slowly with an interception and a lost fumble while scrambling.
Maryland won't have any time to enjoy the win, with a nationally televised game Thursday night at No. 17 Georgia Tech. Terps coach Ralph Friedgen will return to Atlanta, where he was offensive coordinator for the Yellow Jackets the past four seasons.
The key stretch yesterday came after Virginia cut what had been a 17-point Maryland lead to 24-21 following a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matt Schaub with 3:04 left in the third quarter. The Cavaliers had momentum, and the Terps suddenly seemed vulnerable.
"It was quiet on the sideline, like , 'Here we go,'" said Friedgen, the first Maryland coach to start 5-0 in his first season. "I said, 'What are you going to do? Are you going to [blow] this game?' They came out fighting."
The Terps responded with a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive and reasserted their command at 31-21. Perry had six carries for 46 yards in the series, setting up Hill's 5-yard touchdown pass to Jafar Williams on third-and-goal. The catch by Williams was just over the goal line and behind the right pylon.
Maryland's defense made sure there would not be another Virginia comeback when cornerback Tony Okanlawon intercepted Schaub. It was sweet redemption for Okanlawon, who was covering Billy McMullen (11 catches, 175 yards). In 1999 at Byrd, McMullen leaped over Okanlawon for the game-winning touchdown in the last minute. That loss ended Maryland's season with a 5-6 record and cost the Terps a bowl game in Hawaii.
This time Okanlawon easily handled the underthrown ball and returned it 34 yards to Virginia's 28. Moments later, Perry's 6-yard scoring run assured the victory.
On Friday night, Friedgen showed the team a tape of the last two losses to the Cavaliers. Okanlawon admitted that it reopened old wounds.
"That was the first time I had seen it," said Okanlawon, a senior who leads the team with four interceptions. "It hurt. I knew I wanted to make sure that didn't happen again."
Maryland built its lead to 24-7 at halftime thanks to a blocked punt by Williams, who came around the left side and sent back Mike Abrams' kick at the Cavaliers' 5. The ball bounced into the end zone, where the Terps' Leroy Ambush fell on it.
Virginia stormed back in the third quarter. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Cavaliers marched on a six-play, 86-yard touchdown drive. Tailback Arlen Harris scored on a 13-yard pass to cut the deficit to 24-10. After Hill's fumble, Maryland's E.J. Henderson blocked a 22-yard field goal try on Virginia's next possession.
The Terps initially led 7-0 after a 4-yard touchdown run by Hill and 10-0 following a 25-yard field goal by Nick Novak with 6:25 left in the half. Virginia cut the margin to 10-7 following a 63-yard touchdown pass from Schaub to McMullen.
Notes Henderson did not start after breaking a team rule when he was arrested for a DWI on campus last week. The junior middle linebacker came in on the second defensive series and played the rest of the game. Friedgen said Henderson may miss another start as part of his penalty.
The last time the Terps blocked a punt for a touchdown was when current Baltimore Raven Jermaine Lewis did it Oct. 10, 1992, against Georgia Tech.
Perry is averaging 164.2 yards rushing.

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