- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 19, 2002

Maryland tailback Chris Downs celebrated Thursday night's 212-yard, three-touchdown performance against Georgia Tech by doing a paper for class and sprucing up his resume to help land a job in family therapy.
The 5-foot-8 senior also did a pretty good job of sprucing up his football resume during the Terrapins' 34-10 romp before a national television audience.
Downs is the latest reason why the Terps are heading into the second half of the season with a 5-2 record. Quarterback Scott McBrien continues to prove he can be productive and limit his mistakes in big games. The defense, which carried the team early in the season, has gotten stronger as young talent develops.
"The way our season kind of worked out, this is where I want to be," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I said earlier we had to play a lot of kids to get some depth and gain some confidence. Now we beat West Virginia at West Virginia, and we beat Georgia Tech at home. We still can play better. It's right there for us."
Maryland has improved dramatically since losing its opener to Notre Dame 22-0 and being outclassed by Florida State 37-10 two weeks later. The Terps have won four straight and sent a message to future foes by blowing out the Mountaineers (48-17) and the Yellow Jackets in games expected to be close.
The sunny disposition in College Park is enhanced because of the schedule. The Terps' two toughest opponents seventh-ranked Notre Dame and No.12 Florida State are behind them. Maryland needs only two victories to become bowl eligible, and one should come next Saturday at Duke. The Blue Devils (2-5, 0-3) have not won a conference game in the millennium, losing 19 straight since 1999.
The only ranked opponent left is No.13 N.C. State (7-0, 2-0 ACC), which visits Byrd Stadium on Nov.9. After playing the Wolfpack, the Terps visit disappointing Clemson (3-3, 1-2) and surprising Virginia (5-2, 3-1) before closing the season at home against Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2).
Maryland should beat Duke and Wake, and splitting the other four would give it a 9-4 record and put it in line for a postseason appearance like the Peach Bowl. A second consecutive ACC title is likely out of reach unless Florida State loses two and the Terps run the table. But a move toward the top of the standings could be in store for a group that feels it hasn't come close to peaking.
"We haven't really scratched the surface yet," said McBrien, who hasn't thrown an interception in four games and is becoming a steady leader. "We can be so much better than we are. We're making big plays, but we still have a lot of mental mistakes. If we limit our mental mistakes, we can really do something special."
The offense showed its strength in the second half against Georgia Tech by quickly building on a 6-3 lead, with Downs racing for 114 yards in the third quarter alone behind a line that had three players at new positions and a new starter in center Kyle Schmitt. Tackle Matt Crawford, a starter who came off the bench after being ill this week, should be fully recovered for Duke.
ACC offensive player of the year Bruce Perry may return after missing the first seven games with a torn groin muscle. But he will be challenged for his starting spot by Downs, who was the fourth-string tailback when practice started.
"When [Perrys] at full speed, we'll evaluate who's the best back," Friedgen said. "The best back is going to play."
While the offense is still developing stars, the defense is stocked with standouts. All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson has seen tackle Randy Starks and linebacker Leon Joe rise from role players to major contributors. Safety Madieu Williams, who deflected four passes and had 10 tackles (seven solo) against Georgia Tech, has become another impact player on a team eyeing a return to the Top 25.
"We're a work in progress," said Friedgen, a master at keeping his team focused on the task at hand. "I see us getting better. If we are going to continue to win, we have to continue to improve. If we do that, I think we have a chance at having a good football team."
Notes McBrien left the game late in the third quarter after being poked in the left eye but returned in the fourth and will play next week. Starting rush linebacker Jamahl Cochran suffered a severe hamstring pull and is questionable for Duke.
Downs' 212 yards rushing were the 12th most by a Maryland player in a game and the most since Perry's 276 yards last season at Wake Forest. LaMont Jordan, who plays for the New York Jets, tops the list with 306 against Virginia in 1999.

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