The Maryland Terrapins remained unbeaten yesterday. But despite the 39-0 score and another outstanding game from Steve Atkins, win No. 7 took a lot of defense and a little bit of luck.
The sixth-ranked Terps scooped up seven Wake Forest turnovers, allowed the Demon Deacons past midfield just once under his own power and finally burned them at the stake with 29 points in the second half.
But from the ashes of Maryland's 11th straight victory, distress signals arose in little clouds.
The defense, which notched its first shutout, is beyond reproach. But the offense scored on drives of just 43, 39, 26, 31 and 55 yards, and kicked field goals after marches that began as close as Wake's 19- and 35-yard line thanks to interceptions and fumble recoveries by the defense.
The 55-yard drive was piloted by backup quarterback Mike Tice after Tim O'Hare set down early in the third quarter with his worst statistics of the year: five completions in 11 tries with two interceptions.
Atkins, the Terp tailback, broke the 100-yard rushing mark for the tseventh straight time with 104 yards on 28 carries, and his two short touchdowns gave him 28 scores, breaking the Maryland record of 27 by Louis Carter.
But even Atkins began the game like the rest of the offense, which looked in the first half as if it might be auditioning for parts in the movie "Coma." Atkins' first 11 carries netted 14 yards and Maryland might have been in trouble had Wake not spent the first half rolling up 80 yards in penalties and turning over the ball three times.
"I hope we don't play like this against Penn State," said Terp running back Preacher Maddox, who scored Maryland's last two touchdowns on a 31-yard pass from Tice and on a one-yard run.
"Maybe that's our problem" said Maddox. "Thinking about Penn State. Next week we have to go out and play and worry about Duke, not Penn State."
The second-ranked Nittany Lions are next after Duke and if the Terps can upset them, they have a shot at the national championship.
But O'Hare said looking ahead is not what ails the Maryland offense.
"The offense played well. The problems weren't due to anyone else but me," said O'Hare. "I thought I was ready for this game, but I just didn't have any zip on the ball.
"I forced a couple throws and had some problems. But nothing I can't correct. It was just one of those games.
"We know we were going to score on this team, and maybe that was my problem, that I got too impatient."
Tice was inserted with 8:35 left in the third quarter with Maryland leading, 22-0. He looked shaky at the beginning, did not throw to a man open in the end zone and finished up five of 10 for 70 yards.
By the time Tice came in, Maryland was operating without staring fullback Mickey Dudish, who hurt an ankle the play before. Backup Steve Koziol is hurt and didn't dress. Third-stringer Rick Fasano took over and split time with Maddox, who hasn't played the position since he was a freshman. (See TERPS, P8, Col, 1) (TERPS, From P1)
Despite all this , the offense seemed to move well behind Tice. But O'Hare said he does not feel his job is in jeopardy.
"Mike hasn't gotten much work and this was a good time to play him," said O'Hare. "It doesn't bother me."
It was inevitable that Maryland would break open the game against so feeble an opponent. The Deacons, who have one win (over Virginia) in seven games, start only two seniors and yesterday the youth movement wandered too far from home.
Wake changed quarterbacks, too, from freshman David Webber (eight of 14 passing, 73 yards) back to the player who started the season, Ken Daly (two for six, one intercepted, four yards).
"We had so many turnovers, I lost count," said first-year Coach John Mackovic. "They just wore us down in the second half. Maryland is the most physical team we've played."
Strength, that old Terrapin staple, had a lot to do with win No. 7.
"Everyone gets geared up for us," said O'Hare. "And our conditioning eventually wears them out."
It was the second straight week that Maryland had to overcome an early letdown.
"It's a great team that can play the wasy we did and still win," said Tice, "and win, 39-0."
For Maryland, it became a game fo accepting gifts. Scoring began in the first quarter after defensive halfback Lloyd Burruss intercepted fullback Wayne McMillan's option pass and returned it 43 yards to the Wake 19. Atkins carried three times but could not get the first down, so Ed Loncar kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The next score came after Terp linebacker Brian Matera recovered his second fumble, this one at the Wake 43 in the second quarter.
The Terps moved up the field on eight carries by Atkins and one five-yard penalty. Atkins capped the drive, scoring untouched around right end on second and goal from the one. Loncar's kick made it 10-0.
Maryland scored the first two times it had the ball in the second half. Atkins returned the kickoff 58 yards to the Wake 39 and later swept right 26 yards over great blocks by O'Hare and Dudish to the Wake five. That call had come on fourth and two at the Wake 31.
It took all four downs to tally from the five. Atkins carrying each time and finally scoring on a two-yard dive over right tackle, when he appeared to have fumbled at the two. Loncar's attempted extra point bounced backward from the left upright and the Terps led, 16-0.
Ed Gall's fumble recovery started the next Terp drive at Wake's 26. Maddox carried on all four plays and barely scored on a one-yard leap over the middle. O'Hare's conversion pass was overthrown, leaving the score 22-0.
Todd Benson's fumble recovery on a Terp punt started the next Maryland scoring drive at the Wake 35, but the Terps had to settle for Loncar's 32-yard field goal for a 25-0 lead in the third quarter.
Then Sam Johnson's interception of a Daly pass put the Terps at the Wake 31. Two plays later, Tice scrambled and threw a perfect pass to Maddox, who was open at the five and ran in for the 31-yard score. The kick made it 32-0.
Maddox carried 45 yards of the final, 55-yard drive, scoring on a one-yard run on third down.