- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

Maryland right guard Andrew Crummey figured Keon Lattimore was in trouble. Instead of seeing fullback Matt Deese in front of him, a Wake Forest linebacker was awaiting the tailback three yards from the end zone Saturday.

That wasn’t about to stop Lattimore, who barreled in for his first collegiate touchdown and served notice Maryland might have the power rusher it had been looking for all along.

“I remember coming down blocking, and I see the linebacker and no one is blocking him, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, shoot,’ ” Crummey said of the fourth-quarter touchdown, the only one scored by the Terrapins’ offense in the 22-12 victory. “I look over, and he’s [on the ground]. It’s just impressive. He just took on three or four guys and muscled it in there, and that’s what we need.”

The touchdown wasn’t simply a testament to the sophomore’s determination; it was the capstone to a breakout performance that could vault him into the starting tailback job for the Terps (2-2, 1-1 ACC), who play host to Virginia (3-0, 1-0) at Byrd Stadium on Saturday.

Lattimore gained 76 yards on 15 carries against Wake, all in the second half. He shrugged off would-be tacklers on seemingly every rush, and he bounced outside to pick up additional yards several times.

“To me, that’s something we need to have — a back who can create, who can make yards when there aren’t yards there,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.

The performance seemed to distance the 6-foot, 235-pound Lattimore, who had been the third-string back, from fellow sophomore Lance Ball and senior starter Mario Merrills. Ball had a workmanlike 17-carry, 51-yard day against Wake Forest, while Merrills has 57 yards in three games since his 149-yard effort in the season opener against Navy.

Friedgen said he was unlikely to name a starter until late in the week, but it was clear Lattimore was the Terps’ most effective rusher against Wake Forest. It also ended a sometimes frustrating wait of nearly a season-and-a-half for Lattimore, who enjoyed his star turn after entering the game with 16 career carries.

“It was one of the greatest feelings in the world,” Lattimore said. “As a football player, that’s what I strive for. That’s what I came here for, and anytime you get an opportunity in anything, you’ve got to take full advantage of it, and I think I did that.”

While Friedgen has suggested Lattimore drop a few pounds to become a greater threat for a long run, the coach is enamored with Lattimore’s all-around ability. It helped him get on the field earlier in the season when the Terps went to the shotgun, making him an important part of the passing game even though he received nine carries in the Terps’ first three games.

That’s hardly a surprise since Lattimore played wide receiver in a spread offense at Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore during his prep career before switching to the backfield in college. However, his skills in the passing offense could make Lattimore a more attractive player if he reaches the professional level.

“I just want to be labeled as a complete football player,” said Lattimore, whose half-brother is Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. “I know those are the things that get you to the league. You have to be able to pass block and catch the ball out of the backfield and run it. I just work on being a complete back.”

He also has a different approach to rushing, describing himself as a “freestyle back” who will search for yardage even after he realizes there are no holes to dart through. That creativity has been absent for much of the season from the Terps’ rushing attack, which is ranked 80th in the nation with 119.5 yards a game.

“The game is so fast and the players are so athletic, coaches just want a back that is going to make it happen,” Lattimore said. “They’ll be like ‘I don’t know how he did it, but he did it.’ ”

Note — Virginia returned part of its ticket allotment for Saturday’s game. However, fewer than 500 tickets remain available.

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