- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

Chris Downs did not have a single carry in the season-opening loss to Notre Dame. Tomorrow, the tailback is expected to start for Maryland when it plays host to Akron at Byrd Stadium.
"He deserves a shot," Friedgen said. "He's a senior. Right now, I think he is playing the best."
Friedgen said the 5-foot-8, 193-pound Downs, who had been almost exclusively a special teams player, caught his eye in practice this week with his effort and little things like pass protection. The coach said he has looked better than sophomore Jason Crawford, last week's starter, and freshman Mario Merrills but expects all three to play as Bruce Perry continues to heal from a groin tear.
Downs, a junior college transfer, had one tackle on special teams in the 22-0 loss to the Fighting Irish. Last season, Downs had four carries for 14 yards as the fourth-string tailback.
"I gave him a battlefield promotion today," said Friedgen, who told the team Downs would start at the end of practice. "He's kind of a slasher. He has good acceleration and good feet. My concern has been he's had trouble holding on to the ball in the past. He hasn't done that lately."
Downs was a star at Valley Forge Military Academy before transferring to College Park in 2000 and redshirting his first season. The compact tailback ran for 2,013 yards and 23 touchdowns in two years at the Wayne, Pa., program.
The switch comes as a surprise. Crawford was expected to get a second start, but he ran for only 16 yards on 10 carries last week and the overall ground game was subterranean with 16 yards on 21 carries.
Crawford widely regarded as the heir apparent to Perry had envisioned that game as his chance to break out. The 6-2, 220-pounder planned to maximize his first playing time in a meaningful situation.
"I thought I was going to go out and have the game of my life," he said. "No one was nervous; we were ready. I thought we were going to go out there and blow them away."
In the final moments Crawford typified the Terps' mood as he slouched on the bench with a look of despair. Maryland had long since abandoned its running game, hoping to rally with a fast-paced passing attack.
Starting quarterback Scott McBrien looked uncomfortable running the option, pitching the ball too early to string out the defense. On several plays, Crawford ran into unblocked defenders near the line of scrimmage.
"After watching the films, I made a couple of wrong cuts," Crawford said. "I also believe that they should've ran the ball more. They should have given me more opportunities. I only carried it 10 times. I'm a big back. I need to get the ball at least 20 or 25 times to have a chance to wear the defense down."
What may sound like a brash statement for a young player seems to be consensus around College Park at least as far as the team running more. Maryland became one-dimensional after falling behind and relied too heavily on McBrien and the passing game. Notre Dame stacked eight or nine men in the box and dared McBrien and later Chris Kelley to throw against its standout secondary. The results were no points and three interceptions by cornerback Shane Walton.
"I was part of the problem with the running game," Friedgen said. "We probably got away from it a little too early."
Notes Wide receiver Jafar Williams (shoulder) is expected to play, but nickel back Ty Stewart (groin) will miss the game. Stewart should be back next week.
Friedgen said he has cut the number of plays at least in half since last week to simplify the offense for his inexperienced quarterbacks.
"We cut the plays down drastically," he said. "I want to see what their tolerance level is [and] see what they can execute."



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