- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 8, 2002

A shutout loss at the hands of Notre Dame last week left Ralph Friedgens offensive machine in dire need of a major tuneup.

Well, last night the servicemen came into Byrd Stadium wearing gold helmets and white jerseys.

Marylands offense avoided stalls, ran smoother and rolled over Akron for its first victory of the season. The Terrapins will find out if the tuneup will help them navigate a treacherous highway when fifth-ranked Florida State roars down Route 1 and into College Park on Saturday.

The Terps bounced the Zips 44-14 before 48,057 last night by establishing the run and powering through Akrons hapless defense. Maryland took the opening kickoff and needed nine rushing plays to score its first points of the season on Scott McBriens 2-yard touchdown run. The Terps broke the game open later on an 81-yard punt return by Steve Suter and led 35-7 at halftime.

"We find out how much we grew up tonight next week," said Maryland coach Friedgen, after his team ran for 209 yards. "We showed improvement. I thought our running game was better. Scott McBrien did a very good of managing the team. I thought his decisions were better. He didnt force things. When he didnt have things, he ran the ball and gave us a chance."

McBrien bounced back after a poor performance in the opening loss by completing nine of 15 passes for 110 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. The Terps did not have a turnover.

Maryland rushed for 118 yards in the first quarter after gaining just 16 in the entire game in the loss to Notre Dame. The Terps (1-1) built a 14-0 lead on McBriens run and an 8-yard scoring pass from McBrien to Derrick Fenner. But it was Suters punt return that ended the upset dream for the Zips (0-2). Jason Crawford and Chris Downs, who started his first game at tailback, each added a short touchdown run to increase Marylands lead to 28 at the break.

The Terps defense did allow its first touchdown of the season and another meaningless one late in the fourth quarter, but otherwise shut down Akron. The Zips hurt their cause with 16 penalties for 132 yards and had four turnovers, including three interceptions by quarterback Charlie Frye.

Terps safety Madieu Williams had two picks and All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson had the other. Terps kicker Nick Novak made three field goals after missing his first, and matched a career-high with a 51-yarder to give Maryland a 44-7 lead with 12:15 left in the fourth quarter.

"I dont think it makes up for [last week]," Henderson said. "It eases the pain. We had to come out and take it out on somebody."Freshman Mario Merrills led the Terps with 79 yards rushing on 17 carries, while Downs (12 carries, 58 yards) and Crawford (six carries, 27 yards) also took advantage of a dominating offensive line.

The only moderate suspense came in the second quarter, when Akron seemed to change the momentum and had a chance to tie the game at 14. The Zips ran a flea-flicker and got receiver Miquel Irvin open behind a blitzing Maryland secondary with a clear path to the end zone. But Irvin dropped the deep ball, and instead of knotting the score, Akron punted and Suter ensured the Zips wouldnt challenge again.

Suter, a 5-foot-9, 187-pound sophomore, caught the punt at Marylands 19, stutter-stepped to his left before bursting up the middle and easily dodging punter Andy Jerdon at midfield for the Terps first punt return for a touchdown in seven seasons.

"I saw a couple guys go left so I just cut up the middle and there was nothing but green grass," Suter said. "I checked over my right shoulder and then my left shoulder. I actually looked at the Jumbotron to see if anybody was behind me. Im glad we put the money into that thing to help me out."

The Zips cut the deficit to 14-7 when they took advantage of a Maryland blitz. On third-and-5 at Akrons 35, Frye dumped the ball off to Nick Sparks just past the line of scrimmage. Sparks made one quick move to get ahead of the defense and raced into end zone.

Maryland established its dominance on the games first series. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Terps drove 74 yards to score their first points of the season. Downs and Merrills each had four carries for 31 yards, before McBrien reached the end zone.

Notes: Marylands last punt return for a touchdown was on Nov. 4, 1995 when Jermaine Lewis, now with the NFLs Houston Texans, returned one 66 yards against N.C. State Receiver Latrez Harrison started for Jafar Williams, who is recovering from a shoulder strain. Williams did play and had a 46-yard reception in the third quarter Friedgen said he expects tailback Bruce Perry to return for the Sept. 28 game with Wofford The 48,057 attendance was the largest for a home opener since 1985.

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