When Jim Wohlford played for the Kansas City Royals, he said of baseball, "Half of this game is 90 percent mental."
Maryland's unbeaten football Terrapins don't carry side rules, but they are beginning to understand Wohlford's calculation.
As the Terps upped their record to 6-0 and rose to sixth in the Associated Press and United Press International polls, 1976 was brought to mind, the year of the 11-0 season that ended in defeat in the '77 Cotton Bowl. The question was passed around, "What's the difference between the two teams?"
"It's all mental," said defensive guard Bruce Palmer. "We don't have as much talent but we have guys who are playing harder.
"The only difference I can see is that we weren't supposed to do anything and we came out to prove that we could."
A basic similarity is the heavy reliance on defense.This year's secondary of Lloyd Burruss, Steve Timble and safety Ralph Lary has shown itself to be better than the '76 trio of Jonathan Caliborne, Kenny Roy and Burruss, who started the last few games as a freshman. Buruss and Trimble are two of the exceptional athletes on the team.
Offensively, this squad has better depth and makes more use of it, and what quarterback Tim O'Hare has lacked in talent compared with Mark Manges and Larry Dick, he has made up for by committing fewer mistakes and showing better leadership.
The most striking measurable difference is the overall strength of the two teams. The 1976 squad had three players who could bench press more than 400 pounds. This year's team has 14. One of the main reasons for the increase is that the '78 squad worked more diligently in the weight room during the offseason.
"This team is a more determined bunch," said Jerry Eisamen, coach. "We're similar to the '76 team in that the two teams had real good offensive [WORD ILLEGIBLE] . They've controlled the line of scrimmage and enabled us to run or throw and do what we please. That's important, if you're going to go underfested, to be able to take command offensively.
That '76 team had more people of propotential, but this team does just as good a job, against a tougher schedule because of its determination.
In the '76 team, there were some great people making some great plays, like Chuck White might make a diving catch, or Vince Kinney would make an impossible catch covered by two or three people. This team has thrived on clean, well-executed plays. If a receiver isn't open, Timmy will scramble until one is open. Both offenses were real productive.
The '76 team had a lot of proven ballplayers and was expected to go undefeated. This team was picked to finish third conference. This team was not expected to do anything, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] . . . they've done it."
Coach Jerry Claiborne's observation was "I wouldn't compare 'em." He did had his approval when asked if the biggest differences were the tougher 78-schedule, and the fact that this year's team was not expected to do was unlike the 76 team.
Half of the Terps' wins so far have been over temas that were ranked at some time this season in the top 20 - North Carolina, North Carolina State and Kentucky. Five of the six opponents lost for the first time when they were defeated by Maryland.The '76 squad did not play a ranked team during the regular season.
The '76 team was constantly defending its schedule, complaining about its ranking and pulling out Faye Claiborne's poll as exhibit A of the injustice Claiborne said his wife is now retired as a polister.
"It doesn't feel the same," said Buruss: "Everywhere I went today people were talking about us, about being tanked No. 6.
The defense doesn't have as much depth as that one did, but we play together. That's a great force right there, togetherness. It feels so great, I don't even mind going to practice."
"the main difference is tht this team is more together," agreed Charlie Johnson, a senior defensive tackle. "We have a more positive attitude. I think everybody feels a part of this team. Even the way we practice is completely different. We didn't feel a part of that team and we dreaded practice.
"I can look back now and see a few weaknesses in that defense. I think we have a more balanced defense, with no weakness at any position. We're just really good all over."
This is a team that has, for the most part, resisted the temptation to brag about itself, since it has not been put in the position of defending itself. Characteristically, no one would come out and predict an 11-0 season in 1978, particularly with Penn State and Clemson still to come.
But they certainly feel it is possible.
"I would say that we're as good as they were in 1976. I think we could finish 11-0 the way they did," said offensive lineman Glenn Chamberlain. "Our offense just really hasn't had a great game yet where we put it all together. But I think it's potent. I don't think we have quite jelled, which is good, because you want to reach your peak later in the season. When we do, we're going to blow somebody out."
"If they'll take their games one at a time and keep working like they have been," said Eisamen, "I think we have a good chance to go undefeated. Anything can happen."
Of the nations 13 unbeaten teams that played Saturday, nine lost.The remaining six unbeaten, untied major college teams are Maryland, Navy, Oklahoma, Penn State, Arkansas and Holy Cross . . . Bruce Palmer was named ACC defensive lineman of the week for his 14 tackles (two sacks) against Syracuse . . . Thirteen Maryland players have scored this year. The Terps have 10 touchdown rushing, five passing, one on a punt return, one a kickoff return, one on a fumble recovery and nine field goals, 14 point-after-touchdown kicks and one conversion run . . . The defense has 34 quarterback sacks. They had 35 all last year . . . Former Maryland quarterback Mark Manges is scheduled to have a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals.