Mike Tice is Maryland's No. 1 quarterback.
That was by far and away the most important news to come out of the Terrapins' final preseason scrimmage yesterday as they prepare for their season opener a week from today against Villanova.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pount junior, who has struggled throughout summer practice after a shoulder operation last spring, ran with the first-team offense for the first time this preseason yesterday and responded by completing 11 of 16 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns while playing less than a half.
"The arm felt pretty good for a change," Tice said with a big smile as he came off the field. "I didn't feel any pain at all there, no discomfort or anything. I'd still like to have a little more strength and get some more zip on the ball but I feel much better than I have all year."
Both Coach Jerry Claiborne and Jerry Eisaman, the quarterback coach, were encouraged by Tice's performance, although they agreed that they would like to see more "zip" on his passes.
"He looked pretty good," the always-cautious Claiborne said. "He's got another week to get stronger and stronger and we're hoping he will. He looked good running the offense."
"He threw better than he has all summer," Eisaman said, "by far. He still isn't throwing as well as he did in the spring but what he did today was really encouraging.
Tice's performance overshadowed several other fine performances during the two-hour scrimmage, most notably by tailback Charlie Wysocki, who gained 60 yards on 12 carries; defensive halfback Sammy Johnson, who had an interception and played well in place of the injured Lloyd Burruss; punt returner Steve Trimble, who took one back 70 yards for a touchdown; freshman defensive end Mark Duda, who blocked a punt, and the entire offensive line, which as Tice put it, "opened up the biggest holes I've ever seen."
Claiborne was concerned, however, that for the second week in a row the varsity was plagued by penalties. "That was the worst thing about the scrimmage," he said, "the penalties. They just come from a lack of concentration out there and it's something we're going to have to work on."
Claiborne did a lot of experimenting during the scrimmage, which was closed to the public, practicing onside kickoffs, reverse plays for wide receivers and tight ends and in general working very hard on the kicking game -- a prennial Maryland strength.
"I thought the defense and the kicking game looked very good," he said. 'We had a blocked punt, a punt returned for a touchdown and a field goal (38 yards by Dale Castro). The defense moved to the ball good, although I doubt if they'll look that good against Villanova."
The Terps also tried a fake field goal, which failed when holder Brent DeWitz was tackled almost before he could move. The junior varsity offense ran the Villanova wishbone throughout the practice and had execution problems, part of the reason why Claiborne did not take the defensive performance that seriously, although he was clearly pleased with it.
But even though the coach didn't talk at any length about it, the most encouraging thing about the two-hour scrimmage was Tice. Conversely, the most discouraging thing was the passing of backup quarterback Bob Milkovich, who has been running the first team in Tice's absence.
Milkovich was 0 for 6 passing and in the words of Eisaman, "just did some things bad." But he ran the ball well with 46 yards on seven carries, including one touchdown run of 20 yards in which he eluded four tackles on his way to the goal line.
Clearly, though, with such receivers as Jan Carinci, Eric Sievers and Tom Burgess, all of whom looked good yesterday with Tice throwing to them, Claiborne wants the slightly less mobile Tice in the lineup as long as his arm stays strong.
"I feel like I'll be the starter next week," Tice said. Then, catching himself, he quickly added, "at least I hope I'll be the starter. I know I made some mistakes out there today but it felt awfully good stepping into the huddle with the first team. They really encouraged me, made me feel like I belonged. I hope I'm chosen to start."
Barring any further injuries in the next seven days Tice will be Maryland's starter against Villanova and for the 10 games that come after that. Greg (Fly) Robertson, the four-time Atlantic Coast Conference hurdles champion, made his first scrimmage catch yesterday, a 19-yard sideline catch on a pass from Brent DeWitz. It was the only pass completed by a quarterback other than Tice . . . Duda and Howard Eubanks continued to be the Terps' most impressive freshmen. Duda with the blocked punt and Eubanks with a key block on Trinble's 70-yard punt return . . . Jeff Rodenberger and Rick Fasano continued to wage a close battle for the starting fullback spot. They alternated with the first team yesterday, Rodenberger carrying once for five yards, Fasano three times for 17 yards plus a 13-yard touchdown catch . . . Pleasant surprise for John Devlin, the defensive coach, has been walk-on linebacker Chuck Kerner, who ended the scrimmage with an interception.