The 10th-ranked Maryland Terrapins had to over come a host of opponents yesterday - themselves. Mother Nature and Syracuse - before posting their sixth win in as many games, a 24-9 verdict in rainchilled Archbold Stadium.
The homecoming crowd of 15,700 warmed itself with cheers as the Terrapins fumbled on their first three possessions, got only 15 yards on 13 carries from Steve Atkins and went to the locker room at halftime trailing, 6-3.
But a three-touchdown burst in the third quarter was too much for the Orangemen's injury-depleted offense to overcome, and the Terps went on to win their 10th straight game over two seasons Syracuse dropped to 1-5.
Atkins rushed for 102 yards, his sixth straight three-digit effort, but Syracuse's inspired defense keyed on him all day, and the burly tailback had to carry 29 times to keep his streak intact. HIs 3.5 yards per carry were almost two yards below his average coming into the game.
With Atkins meeting so much resistance, Maryland turned to its fullbacks. Starter Mickey Dudish came up with his best collegiate performance, totaling 53 yards on the ground, 33 in the air and scoring a touchdown on a 15-yard run.
Quarterback Tim O'Hare threw for 161 yards on 12-of-17 pass completions. Syracuse, a two-touchdown underdog, struggled offensively without its one-man arsenal, injured quarterback Bill Hurley. Hurley quarterbacked Syracuse's only win of the season but injured his ribs in the process and did not dress yesterday.
Maryland's previous five wins had come over more highly respected teams, and after talking all week about letdown, it happened.
"I had a bad feeling before the game, when I went out and saw 12 people in the stands," said O'Hare. "In the first half, they were more ready than, we were. We weren't right upstairs."
Two big third-quarter plays got the Terps rolling: Don Dotter's 24-yard touchdown run on a double reverse and Dubish's 15-yard score through a gaping hole. Lloyd Burruss then set up a 14-yard drive by blocking a field goal, and after Joe Muffler returned it 75 yards, wingback Jan Carinci scored four plays later, running two yards from a full-house backfield for a 24-9 lead.
"We weren't ready to play," said Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne. "We preached about a letdown all week, but it happened, anyway. Nobody did the things they were supposed to do.
"The best thing about the game was the way they rose up and won it. I told them at halftime that they were getting beat by a team that isn't as good as them, and if they had any pride at all, they would come back in the second half. We did come back in the second half."
The first-half score was somewhat misleading because Maryland had 11 first downs to Syracuse's three, and 17 yards to the Orangemen's 55. Besides the fact that the slippery ball was fumbled once by O'Hare and twice by Atkins to half Maryland's first three drives, two good marches came to nothing when Ed Loncar missed field goals from 26 and 39 yards.
Syracuse's only touchdown came afterr Atkins lost the ball at the Maryland 25-yard line, and quarterback Tim Wilson scored his first rushing touchdown of the year two plays later, darting untouched 20 yards around right end. David Jacobs then missed the attempted extra point, breaking hid-streak of 54 straight successes, and Syracuse led, 6-0, with 10:37 left in the first period.
Loncar brought the Terps to within 6-2 just before the half, booting a 39-yard field goal. The crowd's ovation that followed was for the Syracuse defense which allowed O'Hare to pass for 67 yards in the drive but stopped the Terps short of goal line - their biggest problem this season.
he rain let up in the second half and Maryland went ahead, 17-6, before Syracuse could get a first down.
Maryland scored three touchdowns in an 8 1/2-minute span, beginning with a play that many Maryland critics would have savored.
O'Hare handed off to Atkins, who cut toward the sideline and handed off to Dotter going the other way, and a 24-yard path was open for him down the left sideline.
Coach (Jake) Hallum (offensive line coach) said he had been trying to get Coach Claiborne to run that play for three games. We've worked on it for three weeks, but we've never run it before," said an enthused Dotter. "I loved it. My first touchdown. What a feeling."
The score came after Atkins' 14-yard run on third down and a 26-yard pass reception by split end Dean Richards had eaten up much of the 73-yard distance to the end zone.
Five minutes later, Dudish's run capped a 59-yard, eight-play drive and, four minutes after that, Carinci followed the blocking of reserve fullback Rick Fasano for his two-yard touchdown, putting Maryland up, 24-6, with 2:36 left in the third period.
With the exception of a few plays, Syracuse's offense was sputtering and the Terps emptied their bench in the fourth period. Jacobs added a 27-yard field goal with 11:32 left and the crowd booed the decision not to go for the first down on fourth and eight.
Loncar missed a 49-yarder the Terps didn't need with eight minutes left. It was Maryland's sixth straight win over Syracuse.
"We are young and slowly improving. Our kids played a whale of a football game," said Syracuse Coach Frank Maloney. "We wanted to prevent them from making the big play and we wanted to contain Atkins. I thought the defense played superbly."
Claiborne was encouraged that the alarm he sounded at halftime awakened his Terrapins, particularly since yesterday's game was the first of a three game series against lesser opponent. Maryland hosts Wake Forest next then travels to Duke before the big game at Penn State.