- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

Outlasting Eastern Michigan might have proved more beneficial to Maryland than an expected runaway victory. The Terrapins learned to win without dominating.

Maryland’s 37-13 victory on Saturday was close entering the fourth quarter. The nation’s worst rushing defense was beating Maryland inside and the Terps’ mistakes gave the Eagles steady momentum. Maryland seemed headed for a repeat of its opening 20-17 overtime defeat at Northern Illinois until it scored on five straight possessions.

“We got more out of this game than if we had a Citadel game,” coach Ralph Friedgen said of the earlier 61-0 victory. “One thing it told our team is we can be beat any Saturday. It also showed me when things got tough who reached down and competed.”

The Terps have won three straight, but earlier blowout victories over West Virginia (34-7) and The Citadel didn’t prove whether Maryland was mentally tough enough to handle a close game. After all, Maryland blew a late 13-10 lead at Northern Illinois and a 10-0 edge over Florida State in a 35-10 defeat.

Friedgen noticed players “standing around looking at the empty seats” at Eastern Michigan that likely held half of the announced crowd of 19,628. He was concerned his team might lose to another home underdog even though Maryland entered the game as 34-point favorites.

But Maryland’s leaders emerged. Quarterback Scott McBrien completed 14 of 19 for 252 yards and one touchdown and ran for another score and added a key third-and-long scamper. Josh Allen led a depleted backfield with 71 yards and two touchdowns. Domonique Foxworth returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown.

A 45-yard reception by receiver Steve Suter, shortly after his fumble led to an Eastern Michigan touchdown, was pivotal. Maryland kicked a field goal for a 16-10 halftime lead and never was pressed again.

“It wasn’t what they were doing,” Allen said. “It was what we’re not doing right.”

Maryland (3-2, 0-1) resumes its ACC schedule Saturday against Clemson (3-1, 1-0). The Florida State loss makes it hard for Maryland to catch the Seminoles (5-0, 4-0), as the Terps begin a seven-game conference schedule. Friedgen said the largely non-conference start felt like an exhibition season.

“In as much as to say the preseason is over, our goals are still there,” Friedgen said. “Now it’s time to turn up the juice.”

Maryland remains bothered by injuries, though. Running back Bruce Perry is questionable after aggravating his high ankle sprain against Eastern Michigan. He gained 38 yards on 11 carries, but didn’t play the second half. With Sam Maldonado suspended for violating team rules, the Terps must rely on Allen. The Terps also are hoping receiver Jafar Williams and guard Lamar Bryant can return from hand injuries. Williams didn’t play against Eastern Michigan and Bryant left the game briefly.

Bryant’s return is especially needed because backup Akil Patterson also was suspended for violating team rules and guard Ed Tyler is playing hurt. The Terps have trouble running inside when they’re healthy and Bryant still hasn’t fully recovered from an earlier broken ankle.

“We’re really at the point where we can’t lose many more players,” Friedgen said.

The offensive line improved in the second half when Maryland rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

“Getting the big push up front really came together in the second half,” McBrien said. “It allowed the backs and myself to get running room.”

Defensively, Maryland was confused by Eastern Michigan which abandoned its pass-oriented offense to replicate the Northern Illinois running scheme. The Terps’ blitzing couldn’t disrupt the Eagles. Ironically, the biggest defensive play came when Foxworth recognized a formation Maryland uses in practice to intercept Eastern Michigan’s opening pass for a 6-0 lead.

“I anticipated the pass and the quarterback hesitated and gave me time to make the play,” he said. “If he hadn’t hesitated I’m not sure I could have made the play.”

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