Winged Terrapins Play On
Saturday, October 20, 2007
On Wednesday nights, around 9:30 p.m., members of the Maryland Terrapins' offensive line flock to the appropriately named Hard Times Cafe in College Park, which features a comfortable patio and a big sign out front that reads "Cheap Wing Night."
Some of the Terrapins have been known to eat upward of 50 wings per sitting. And since these weekly get-togethers began last summer, upon their arrival the staff knows to immediately commence bringing out piles of 40-cents-a-piece Texas-style chicken wings.
"Everybody knows food is going to bring an O-line together," Terrapins guard Phil Costa said.
The offensive line has spent the season undermanned because of injuries, but the patchwork rotation they've used to fight fatigue has acquitted itself successfully. The Terrapins have managed to clear holes for running backs Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. They've kept Chris Turner on his feet, allowing the sophomore to step in for injured starter Jordan Steffy.
What they lack in depth they've compensated for with chemistry.
"There's a certain camaraderie off the field that lends itself to good play on the field," offensive line coach Tom Bratton said. "They pick each other up when they're down. They trust each other."
That closeness will be tested again when Maryland hosts rival Virginia at Byrd Stadium tonight in a nationally televised ACC clash that has major ramifications for both teams.
The Cavaliers (6-1) come to Byrd Stadium as one of the nation's hottest teams, winners of six straight, the school's longest winning streak in five years. The Terrapins (4-2) have rebounded from a humiliating collapse at Wake Forest to string together wins against Georgia Tech and then-No. 10 Rutgers, both without their starting quarterback. Both teams will need a victory to maintain hopes of winning a division title and a spot in the ACC championship game.
However, the most intriguing game within the game will center along the line of scrimmage, where the Terrapins' offensive line faces a talented Cavaliers front seven led by Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald.
"It's a great opportunity to show what we can do as a team, and what we can do as an offensive line," Costa said.
Again, Maryland will be undermanned. For the first time this season, the Terrapins will take the field without all-ACC guard Andrew Crummey, who will miss the remainder of the regular season after breaking his fibula two weeks ago against the Yellow Jackets.
But for this group, playing shorthanded is nothing new. Since the end of last season, the offensive line has suffered several key losses. Former left tackle Stephon Heyer, now with the Washington Redskins, graduated. Former guard Donnie Woods left the team though he had eligibility remaining. Tackle Jared Gaither entered the NFL's supplemental draft after he was declared academically ineligible this season.