Most football coaches use the cliche "We have to establish the running game," without finishing the sentence. The rest of the sentence is: "in order to set up the passing game."
Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne has always taken the opposite tack -- he uses the passing game in order to set up his running game.
Never has that been more true than this season. In its first three games, Maryland has snapped the ball 193 times from scrimmage. On 155 of those plays, it has run the ball -- about 80 percent of the time. Historically, in Claiborne's eight years in College Park, the Terrapins have rushed the ball about 65 percent of the time.
There are several reasons for the extra emphasis on the run this season. Among them are:
Charlie Wysocki, a sophomore tailback with a bionic body who has carried 84 times -- 28 a game -- and is averaging 5.7 yards a carry for a total of 478 yards, best in the nation.
The offensive line. The Terps are so big and strong up front that they are capable of overpowering people on running plays. The pass blocking, which takes more finesse than strength, has not been as good as the straight-ahead power blocking.
Mike Tice, the 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior is still developing as a thrower but is as good a blocking quarterback as there is in the country. When he leads the 5-11, 195-pound Wysocki into a hole, it is difficult to find the tailback.
Claiborne is quick to point out that Maryland has consistently completed about 57 percent of its passes the last eight seasons and denies that he is a subscriber to the Darrell Royal school of coaching, which says that if you pass the ball three things can happen, and two of them are bad.
But Tom Groom, who coaches the running backs, is quick to admit, "If we can run the ball and run the ball, we'll do it. Why not? But I've always believed that to be a good football team you have to be able to do both. No one can survive with just the run.
"Charlie had 160 yards in the Villanova game but it was the passing game that pulled it out for us when we got in a hole at the end. You have to be able to do both. Our best teams have done both."
Everyone at Maryland admits, however that the emergence of Wysocki as not only an effective back but a remarkably durable one, has changed the normal philosophy somewhat. Wysocki is a genuine workhorse. He runs the ball downfield 40 yards on every play during practices. He loves to carry the ball, asks to carry it and never seems to get tired. He is physically stronger than Steve Atkins, Alvin Maddox or Louis Carter and, Groom points out, a better inside runner.
"He may be as good an inside runner as we've had here," Groom said. "We keep tabs on how much yardage our backs pick up after the first hit. A good back, if he's running really hard, may get as much as 50 yards a game after being hit. So far, Charlie's getting 75."
What's more, Wysocki is running behind an offensive line that has been together for four years and, as offensive guard Paul Glamp puts it, "knows this is the last go-round."
Glamp, Kervin Wyatt, Phil Livingston, Chris Grey, Larry Stewart and Tom Burgess are all seniors. They are by far the most experienced group of players on the team. Claiborne has always subscribed to the theory that experience equals strength, so he is inclined to lean heavily on that line.
"We said up front that the offensive line would be one of our big strengths," Groom said. "And it's turned out that way. As long as they keep doing the job up there, I guess we'll continue to run the ball a lot."
And, although Claiborne says he would like to see Wysocki carry the ball closer to 20 times a game rather than 30, don't expect to see Wysocki's numbers drop too quickly. "I want to carry it as much as possible," Wysocki said. "That's what I like best about football, running the ball."
And as long as he averages almost six yards every time he carries it, Wysocki will see the ball often.
"If we get the passing game going good, Charlie could average seven or eight yards a carry," Claiborne said, eyes sparkling.
To Claiborne, that would be nirvana.
The news on starting defensive tackle Ed Gall, who suffered an injured knee against Mississippi State was encouraging yesterday; the injury is a sprain. Gall will miss the Kentucky game but could return next week for Penn State . . . The injury list grew yesterday, however, Starring fullback Rick Fasano suffered a broken finger catching a pass Saturday and is probably out for Kentucky. . .Joining him on the bench will be backup defensive end Brad Senft, who pulled a hamstring running sprints in practice . . . Center Bruce Byrom, the snapper on punts and placekicks, pulled a groin muscle in practice, but should be okay Saturday.