For the first time this season, they celebrated in the Maryland locker room today. They screamed and hollered and sang the Maryland fight song with vigor.
Charlie Wysocki's two touchdowns, the last a six-yard dash early in the fourth quarter, earned Maryland a 14-11 victory over West Virginia in front of 48,038 at Mountaineer Field. The Terps raised their record to 3-0, but far more important, it was Test No. 1 survived.
The opponent today was not Villanova or Vandervbilt. This was a very good football team. It was a team with a superb quarterback, talented receivers and more than 100 players in uniform, each looking for a Maryland head to take off.
"That was a real physical football game," said Coach Jerry Clairborne, his voice scratchy, his face pouring sweat, still out of breath after an emotional afternoon. "They got in some real good licks and so did we. They hit us very hard and we hit them very hard."
The performance of the Maryland defense today was no surprise. Everyone knows the Terps can play with anybody on that side of the ball. The surprise, the revelation, was the offense.
This was Clairborne at his most imaginative, calling pass plays on first down, using quarterback Mike Tice to his optimum ability, even calling a fake field goal in the fourth quarter that could have -- probably should have -- worked.
This was Tice completing eight of 15 passes for 71 yards but getting the completions when they most counted and bouncing back even though he had five passes dropped on him, three in a row at one point.
This was the remarkable Wysocki shaking off a poke in the eye on the first series that left him woozy and coming back to gain 149 yards on 35 carries and score both touchdowns, the second on a twisting, knifing run.
"That," said West Virginia quarterback Oliver Luck, no slouch with 19 completions in 30 passes for 206 yards, "was a damn good football game."
From the beginning, it was obvious that West Virginia's two easy victories to start the season had not been flukes. Throughout the first quarter, the Mountaineers had the Terps backed up as Luck came out throwing and moved his team up and down the field.
But the Maryland defense is no fluke either. Each time it looked as if WVU was about to go ahead, it come up with a big play. On the first drive, Mike Corvino forced Luck to rush a third down pass from the Terp 33 and he threw behind Dave Johnson. The drive stopped.
On their second possession, the Mountaineers drove from their 29 to the Maryland 29. There, on third and nine, Luck was slammed by Corvino as he dropped back and Ed Gail picked up the fumble at the Maryland 46.
"They had the best set of receivers I've seen since I've been in college," Maryland safety Ralph Lary said. "I mean they made some catches I couldn't believe. We were sticking them, hitting them and they were still cathching them. They were good."
But not good enough to get the ball into the end zone against the collegigate version of The Wild Bunch until the final minute of the game -- and then it took some help from the officials.
But for most of the first half, even though Clairborne was mixing up his play calling extremely well, it didn't look like the Terps would score in this picturesque setting until their next appearnace here.
In the end, the defense came up with two plays that turned the game around. West Virginia was driving again, having moved from its 31 to the Maryland 34, where it had third and one. As he has done all season, rookie Coach Don Nehlen sent in three fullbacks and two tight ends for the short yardage play. Everyone in the stadium knew fullback Walter Easley would get the ball.
"We wantaed to try and make them do something other than what they had been, which was running it right up the middle," Clairborne said. "We tried to stuff that up."
The Terps stuffed it up by covering the outside holes with linemen and opening up the middle for the linebackers. Twice, Easley tried to get the one yard. First, linebacker John Kreider and defensive end Peter Glamp stopped him for no gain. Then, on fourth down, Joe Wilkins knocked Easley flat.
It was Maryland's ball, and Maryland's momentum.
The Mountaineers sagged visibly and Wysocki began pounding at them, with a good deal of help both blocking and running from fullback Rick Fasano. And when it was needed most, Tice found Jan Carinci for an 18-yard pickup. It was the first time all season that last year's leading receiver had been passed to and he took full advantage, scrambling to the WVU 21.
From there it was Wysocki, four times hitting the right side of the West Virginia defense, finally going over from the one with 1:48 left in the half, and Maryland had a 7-0 lead.
"They really hit me all day," said the stocky junior who now has carried 98 times for 479 yards in three games. "I think the guy poked me in the eye on purpose the first series. They hit hard but they also hit late sometimes."
But the Terps, who finished with 276 yards of offense, had enough answers.
On their first two possessions of the second half, they did exactly what they had to: marched down the field, ate up time and controlled the flow of the game.
They held onto the ball for 17 plays and seven minutes, driving from the 20 to the WVU 10 before bogging down. Dale Castro, who punted suerbly all day, the 43-yard averge proving his leg again healthy, came on for the seemingly automatic field goal. But he turned human briefly and missed, wide right.
"My leg is fine," Castro said. "The snap was good, so was the hold. I just hooked it."
Now West Virginia had life. Luck, an exquisitely accurate rollout passer going in either direction, quickly moved his team to the Maryland 16. Again, the defense held up under pressure. First, Greg Vanderhout, a one-man demolition unit, sacked Luck for a nine-yard loss. Then Lary hit tight end Mark Raugh so hard as he caught Luck's pass at the 15 that he had to be taken from the field on a stretcher. He was not seriously hurt, just knocked silly.
Steve Sinclair kicked a 31-yard field goal on the next play and with 3:29 left in the third quarter it was 7-3 and the crowd was aroused as the warm sun began to disappear behind the stands.
The Terps never blinked. They got one absolutely crucial catch from Chris Havener on a third and 10 from their 30 and matched 80 yards in 16 plays. Wysocki scored from the six with 13:35 left.
"That catch from Havener was so crucial because we had really been hurt by not scoring on the first possession," Clairborne said. "He took a tremendous hit and held on."
Havener, who made the team as a walk-on four years ago, was delighted, but modest. "It didn't feel like that hard a hit," he said. "It was a good throw (on a pattern put into the offense this week) and I just held on."
So did the Terps. Lary made an interception later in the fourth period and by the time Luck found Billy Evans on a one-yard touchdown toss there were only 59 seconds left. All Maryland had to do was cover the onside kick and Havener took care of that, too, clearly fielding the ball just before taking another vicious hit.
Then it was time to celebrate.