- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2003

During the 2002 recruiting season, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen told his assistants he had enough running backs. Then he saw Josh Allen, and suddenly there was room for one more.

“I hate to see where we’d be if we didn’t have him,” Friedgen said.

Allen’s 257 yards led Maryland past Virginia 27-17 on Thursday to keep the Terrapins ACC title hopes alive. The third-most yards in a game by a Maryland runner came on 38 carries, which included an 80-yard touchdown run and a 1-yard scoring dive.

“I was in the hotel [before the game] and seeing how hard the wind was blowing from the window I knew to be prepared,” Allen said. “It feels good to be there when the team needs you. I was shocked [at the yardage]. I had no idea how many carries I had.”

On a night the Terps had two backs hurt and Friedgen considered burning Lance Ball’s redshirt season, Allen shouldered the offense. Allen hadn’t gained 257 yards in the last six games combined and was held to zero yards on five carries against Georgia Tech on Oct.23. The former Eleanor Roosevelt High standout, however, has succeeded Bruce Perry as Maryland’s offensive focal point.

“I said, ‘Josh, are you ready for a 100-yard game?’” quarterback Scott McBrien asked Allen early Thursday. “He said ‘I’ll get you 200.’ I don’t know how that game would have turned out if Josh was not there.”

Said linebacker Shawne Merriman: “With Josh, you really can’t tell too much. He’s as quiet as a cat.”

Allen’s breakaway score down the right sideline on a “42 lead” was a broken play. Allen bounced outside and went untouched after an expected inside hole closed.

“I got to watch the Jumbotron to make sure nobody was going to catch him,” McBrien said. “I knew nobody would.”

Now the Terps are wondering if anyone can catch them after winning their second straight and seventh in eight games. Maryland (7-3, 4-2 ACC) still might share the ACC crown if Florida State (8-2, 6-1) loses tomorrow to N.C. State and the Terps follow by beating N.C. State (Nov.22) and Wake Forest (Nov.29).

However, Florida State has the tie-breaking edge because of its better BCS ranking and a 35-10 victory over Maryland early in the season. The Terps therefore are vying for a Gator Bowl bid on Jan.1.

“It’s our destiny now to win the next two games,” kicker Nick Novak said.

The offensive turnaround for Maryland this season has been startling. After losing 7-3 at Georgia Tech, Maryland beat North Carolina 59-21 and overran Virginia on a blustery night. Terps guards Lamar Bryant and C.J. Brooks are finally healthy after playing just three games in 33 days. Their return to full strength clearly showed inside, where the Terps ran freely.

After beating North Carolina, Friedgen said he feared a loss to the Tar Heels might have caused a season-ending, four-game losing streak. Instead, the Terps are playing their best ball of the season.

“After the Georgia Tech game, we were as low as we could go,” center Kyle Schmitt said, “but this turnaround is just incredible.”

The Terps finish with two road games. Maryland is 6-0 at home but 1-3 on the road.

“We haven’t played very well on the road this year, but we’re peaking right now,” McBrien said. “What better time to be peaking?”

Maryland is certainly peaking emotionally. A normally reserved team, the Terps are boiling over with adrenalin. Maryland assistant coach James Franklin and Virginia coach Al Groh exchanged angry words during pregame drills as their teams tried to share the field. The Terps received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting after the coin toss. Friedgen was so wired after the game he watched the ESPN replay of the game at 3 a.m.

The Terps aren’t just revived, they’re relentless.

“The [North Carolina] game we didn’t have the excitement on the sidelines,” Friedgen said, “but they were into every play of the game [against Virginia]. I didn’t do a whole lot to motivate them. They were self motivated. They played with confidence and like they enjoyed playing.”

Friedgen is trying to keep players from speculating about their bowl prospects. The Gator Bowl traditionally goes to the ACC runner-up, but there are several other options for the Terps.

“The focus now is not which bowl we’re going to, but where we finish in the conference,” Friedgen said. “I can tell you with our exams that New Year’s fits better in the schedule.”

Note — Receiver Latrez Harrison (knee) and offensive tackle Stephon Heyer (knee) are expected to play against N.C. State.

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