- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

How Maryland responds against the nation's leading rusher will go a long way to determining if the Terrapins can pick up their first quality win of the season Saturday.

West Virginia's Avon Cobourne has been terrorizing defenses as he races into the record books. The Big East's all-time leader in rushing yards leads the nation after slicing through East Carolina for 260 yards last week. Cobourne is averaging 159.5 yards a game and the tailback is the main reason the Mountaineers are the country's top rushing team, averaging 345.5 yards.

"He can go sideways as fast as he goes forward," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who is impressed by Cobourne's vision and ability to break tackles. "He's got that good, quick move. He makes a guy miss and he's out in the open."

The job of stopping Cobourne will be tougher this week because starting outside linebacker Leroy Ambush must serve a one-game suspension for violating undisclosed team rules, Friedgen said yesterday. Redshirt freshman Ricardo Dickerson will start and share time with freshman William Kershaw.

Cobourne has 638 yards and a 6.5 yards-per-carry average in four games. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior has gained 453 yards the last two games as the Mountaineers (3-1) slipped by Cincinnati 35-32, when Cobourne had 193 yards, and pounded East Carolina 37-17. For his career, Cobourne has 4,093 yards and 32 touchdowns.

"They are going to try to run," said Maryland nose tackle C.J. Feldheim, who saw Cobourne run for 128 yards in a Terps win last season. "They have been successful with it the first four games. We have to get them off that schedule and make them do what they don't want to do throw the ball."

The Terps (3-2) have allowed a modest 102.5 yards rushing a game but have struggled holding the line in their two losses. They were successful against lightweights Akron, Eastern Michigan and Wofford. However, Notre Dame had 130 yards, while No.11 Florida State had 30 rushes for 169 yards when it went away from its powerful passing attack.

Maryland plans to stack the line in hopes of slowing Cobourne and forcing sophomore quarterback Rasheed Marshall to pass. Wisconsin is the only team that has contained Cobourne, limiting him to 79 yards on 18 carries in the Badgers' 34-17 win.

"The key to stopping the run to begin with is just loading the box," said Terps defensive coordinator Gary Blackney, who expects one-on-one coverage on receivers. "You have to put more people in the box than they have on the line of scrimmage. If they can run the ball against you then, you have a lot of problems."

The Mountaineers are second in the nation in total offense at 512.7 yards, and average 36.2 points behind an agile offensive line that is slightly smaller than many power teams. The line averages 6-2, 292 pounds, but is quick and adept at pulling to give Cobourne the necessary seam to launch him into the secondary. After that, the elusive tailback has been making would-be tacklers look foolish.

The Terps' strategy is to fill the holes and not allow Cobourne to find a cutback lane.

"If we don't slow the run, it will be like [West Virginia] last week against East Carolina," said Blackney. "They wound up with 500 yards rushing. We can't let them do that."

Notes The previous Big East rushing leader was West Virginia's Amos Zereoue, who gained 4,086 yards from 1996 to '98.

Friedgen said tailback Bruce Perry will not play. Perry did not practice yesterday and is still suffering from a torn left groin muscle that has kept him sidelined all season. "I'm not going to play him unless he's 100 percent," Friedgen said. "I'm really counting on Bruce getting well and getting him for the second half of the season."

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