Mississippi State played yesterday as if the football were radioactive -- especially on kickoffs -- and Maryland took full advantage for a ridiculously easy 35-14 victory in front of 37,212 at Byrd Stadium.
From the beginning on this overcast, drizzly afternoon it was apparent the visitors were not ready to play football. They muffed or fumbled four of the first five Maryland kickoffs, setting up two scores on turnovers and getting terrible field position the other times.
By the time the game ended, Dale Castro had kicked five field goals to break the school record he set last week, Charlie Wysocki had rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries -- that included a 73-yard run -- and third-string fullback Lyle Peck had gone through the entire MSU defense for a 42-yard touchdown on his first run from scrimmage as a collegian.
Maryland, now 3-0, probably could not have lost to the Bulldogs, 0-2, even had it tried.
"It was almost too easy," said Terrapin quarterback Mike Tice, who completed eight of 14 passes for 98 yards in little more than a half. "We don't want them all like that. We'll get overconfident."
Emory Bellard, the losers' coach, said simply: "We did everything wrong that you can do."
Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne was more polite: "They gave us a lot of opportunities."
Maryland had enough opportunities to last until 1985. After the Terps had gone ahead with 9:57 left in the first quarter on Castro's 45-yard field goal (he is 10 for 10 this season, one shy of the NCAA record for consecutive successes) the junior kicked off to MSU's James Jones.
Jones dropped the ball once, picked it up in the end zone, fumbled again and recovered on the three. That put the visitors in a hole for the day.
"We were just fired up today," said safety Ralph Lary, last week's interception hero at Clemson. "It's too bad we let them score. I guess we just got lazy at the end there. I swear though, they had the worst luck."
Lary was being kind. Bellard is the inventor of the wishbone, but the Terps' defense stymied it today. When Tice and Wysocki went to work, with excellent help from wingback Jan Carinci (five catches for 69 yards), the Terps drove to the 12 as the first quarter ended.
They stalled there and Castro was perfect again, this time from 29 yards, and it was 6-0. Then, Mississippi State's kickoff team started into its not-ready-for-prime-time act.
First, Chris Barbiasz of Maryland recovered Fred Collins' fumble of Castro's short kick at the 32. The Terps drove to the one, stalled and Castro made it 9-0 with an 18-yarder with 11:26 left in the half.
Jones repeated his first-quarter act at the 16 and Jerry Rogers recovered. This time Castro had to kick a 32-yarder to make it 12-0 with 10:29 left.
Castro's four field goals in the first half tied the NCAA record shared by Tony Franklin of Texas A&M (1977 against Texas Tech) and Vince Fusco of Duke (1976 against Clemson).
"Actually we didn't score nearly as much as we could have with the opportunities that we had," Claiborne said. "We should get seven points when we get the ball in that kind of field position. We still have to solidify our offense. We're not making enough big plays just yet."
Wysocki finally came up with a big play for Claiborne, a 10-yard touchdown run in which he broke three tackles with 4:04 left in the half. The run culminated a 39-yard drive set up by a short punt by Dana Moore.
"Give my linemen the credit," Wysocki said, repeating what has become a weekly postgame speech. "They've really done a great job for me. The fullbacks too. Everyone blocked great today, especially against that big line."
Wysocki's biggest play of the game, two minutes into the third quarter, was a true team effort. With the ball on the Maryland 27, Tice called the right audible, the line blocked perfectly and Wysocki broke tackles and made it look easy.
"The play was supposed to go left, but Mike saw the defense stacked that way so he audibled," Wysocki said. "That made the play."
Wysocki broke on tackle at the line, ducked safety Rob Fesmire with a neat cutback at the MSU 40, then dodged Don Edwards' dive at the 10 and danced into the end zone. With a 26-0 advantage, even the conservative Claiborne began emptying his bench. Tice sat down for the rest of the day and Wysocki was held out until the sophomore asked back into the game in the fourth quarter, "because I didn't feel tired." Wysocki, the nation's leading runner last week, has 479 yards in 84 carries, an average of 5.6 yards.
"We all get our pleasure out of seeing Charlie and the rest of the backs run well and get 100 yard games," guard Paul Glamp said. "We have a lot of pride in what they do. When they get recognition, that means we're doing our jobs."
Added Kervin Wyatt: "I thought we'd get better every week and we have. I think with our injuries, everyone has just been working a little bit harder, the whole team. We're all grateful to be playing and not hurt."
Still, it would not have been a Maryland football game without at least one starter getting hurt. The latest victim was defensive tackle Ed Gall, who injured his left knee in the first quarter and limped off the field.
Team doctor Stanford Laving will examine Gall Monday. Gall is the sixth starter to go down.
The other "disappointment" in this romp was the touchdown the defense gave up. Trailing, 32-0 (Castro missed the extra point after Peck's dash), MSU put together a 20-play, 83-yard drive capped by Donald Ray King's one-yard dive with 6:58 left in the game. The Bulldogs' other touchdown ironically came when Jones finally held onto Castro's last kickoff and went 92 yards for a score.
"That was the only kickoff I got where I wanted," said Castro, a walkon three years ago. "I'd been trying to kick high into the corner all day. The others were high. This one went in the corner but it was a line drive."
The afternoon was best exemplified by Peck's run. The 6-foot-4 220-pound junior appeared to be tackled, but he knocked down three tacklers and headed down the sideline.
"I couldn't believe it," Claiborne said. "I don't know how he did it because I thought he was down and I'd turned around to call another play."
He didn't need one. By that time, with 2:04 left in the third quarter, the Terps had run all the plays they needed.