After four years, the waiting is over for Tim O'Hare, the senior quarterback who will start his first college game today at Byrd Stadium, leading Maryland against Tulane at 1:30.
"I think I'm pretty loose," said O'Hare. "I've had a lot of time to think about it and keep it in perspective.
"I'm pretty excited about it, but I'm taking it in stride. I hope I'm the same person I always was, although it will certainly be a lot more fun to be playing."
O'Hare, a drama major, only seemed inexplicably calm before the 1978 debut for both teams.
"I'm nervous, but not in a way that you'd see it," said O'Hare. "I think I am emotional. But it's more like I'm anxious. I know what's expected. It's hit me. Actually it really started hitting me in winter workouts in late January."
With the departure of last year's senior quarterbacks, Mark Manges and Larry Dick, O'Hare became the favorite the job by seniority, even though he never had lettered. Insiders expected sophomore Mike Tice to pressure O'Hare for the job. But Tice was injured in the spring and was hurt again during the first day in pads last month.
Tice experienced a shooting pain in his neck when he threw a certain way, but kept the problem to himself. It finally was diagnosed as a slight case of tendinitis, and Tice was given Butazolidin for five days.
He said he has only begun to regain his form and his confidence in the last few days. Coach Jerry Claiborne has said that he would be substituting at quarterback more frequently this season, and Tice is expected to play today.
Because of Tice's reputation as a long thrower and flamboyant personality, O'Hare has been cognizant of the footsteps sounded by his 6-foot-7 competitor. He has handled the situation gracefully.
"Any quarterback knows that if he doesn't do the job, he won't keep it," said O'Hare. "I know the time has come. I'm not worried about making mistakes. I feel very positive about the whole thing. Mentally and physically, I'm ready."
Maryland is a two-touchdown favorite with the Terraplins' strong running game expected to overpower Tulane's young defense. Maryland's first-string defense has jelled, but depth is a critical problem. So, some defenders say, is Tulane quarterback Roch Hontas, a three-year starter who led the nation in pass completion percentage (63.4) last year. Never the less, the Green Wave finished 3-8.
Hontas, who is only 5-10, is most dangerous when he breaks out of the pocket and scrambles to find a receiver, so the Terps hope to get to him early. His quick pass release presents problems there.
For both teams, this will be a day of self-evaluation, the beginning of an effort to atone for the disappointments of last season, when Maryland won seven of its last eight games to finish 8-4. No one feels this more keenly than Maryland's seniors.
"It does mean more to the seniors," said senior tailback Alvin (Preacher) Maddox, who will alternate today with freshman Charlie D. Wysocki and senior Steve Atkins, who has been hampered by a toe injury.
"I think to myself, well, I've been playing all my life, and this may be my last year," said Maddox. "Every game this year has a lot of meaning, but the first one has a little more. It's the start of the season, what you've been looking forward to while you practiced for three weeks."
"I'm tired of waiting. I want to play," said senior quick-side guard Glenn Chamberlain. "This team seems to have a lot of potential, and we'll finally get to see it. We'll find out in the first game what we'll be like."
Chamberlain started most games last season but was held back this summer after he dropped a 270-pound weight, causing what Chamberlain described as "unbelievable" swelling to his upper lip. Paul Glamp will start at quick guard, but Chamberlain will play, as the offensive line will be alternating frequently at every position today.
"A lot of guys look forward to playing in the pros, but I know my limitations. I'm 5-foot-11," said Chamberlain, "and my chances are slim. This is probably my last year, and after you've been with the guys for four years, it's just a greater feeling. It just seems like you have so much more to give, in order to go out on a winning note."
Senior linebacker Neal Olkewicz said he thought back to his days on the scout squad, known as the Zingos - the players who ran the opponents' plays in practice.
"Most of us have been together, and at times we thought we had nothing to look forward to, and so it means a little more," said Olkewicz.
"You just think," said senior fullback Mickey Dudish, "of going out there and letting everything out on the field, because it's the last time you'll ever be able to do it.
"You always want to go out a winner, and this is the first stepping stone. They always say it's the seniors' team. And if we don't have a good year, people will look back on it and say they must not have had any good seniors that year. It's a special feeling - like it's our team, and we want to win."
Charlie Johnson, a 6-2, 260-pound-defensive tackle being advertised by Maryland publicists as an All-American candidate, says being a senior "is nothing like I thought it would be.
"Just to see my name in the paper used to give me the biggest thrill. I'd say, 'Look. There's my name.'
"Now, I'm in a different position, a position of leadership, being a senior and all. It's nice. I like it."
Kickers always have to be different, and senior placekicker Ed Loncar is no exception.
"This year doesn't feel any different to me," said Loncar. "The years go by - zip - so fast. It all just went right by me. I don't feel like a senior yet."