Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne still was fuming yesterday over a controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called against his team after an apparent North Carolina fumble in the second quarter of Saturday's 17-3 loss to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.
"From the films it clearly looked like a fumble and we got it," said Claiborne about Amos Lawrence's fumble in Terrapin territory. Game officials ruled it came after the whistle. The Maryland offense thought its defensive unit had recovered, and began trotting onto the field. That is when official Joe Long levied the disputed penalty against the Terp defense and its coaches for running onto the field.
"I've never seen the officials make that call in a situation like that. No way that penalty should have been called," said Claiborne. He added that after reviewing the films, Long pointed at No. 64, Brian Riendeau of the defense, for being on the field when he wasn't supposed to be.
"How did he (official) know that those players weren't defensive substitutions?" Claiborne asked. "It was a dead ball.We could put anyone in the game we wanted to. After we explained why our players were on the field he should have picked up the flag and put it in his pocket."
Long did just that, after marching off the 15-yard penalty down to the Maryland 17-yard line, from where the Tar Heels finished their scoring drive.
"Carolina is a good football team, but we could have made things different if we had helped ourselves out. We fumbled on three of the first five times we had the ball," Claiborne added. "That has to play on your mind. This was a toe-to-toe game all the way. I don't think they hit any harder than we did. But they took advantage of our mistakes and we didn't take advantage of theirs. That was the difference."
The difference in Howard's 30-17 loss to South Carolina State Saturday night in Orangeburg, S.C., was a fumble, a penalty and a blistering punt return.
Howard trailed, 17-0, in the second quarter as the Bulldogs, ranked third in the Sheridan Poll of black colleges and No. 2 of all Division 1-AA schools, rolled up 259 yards rushing in the first half. Bulldog runners Chris Ragland (152 yards, 32 carries) and Mack Reed (12 carries, 90 yards) ran straight at the Bison defense, which is quick, but not especially strong.
But Howard (1-1-1), which has made spectacular comebacks in all three of its games, tied the score late in the third quarter on a 76-yard touchdown pass from Ron Wilson to Tracy Singleton, a Howard Ward 42-yard field goal and Wilson's three-yard quarterback sneak after a Bulldog fumble deep in their own territory.
But Greg Banes, Howard's leading rusher who didn't start the game because of a bruised knee, fumbled on his own 17 and Ragland ran the entire distance two plays later for the go-ahead touchdown, 23-17. A 66-yard punt return by Rocky Cunningham sealed the undefeated Bulldogs' fourth win and dashed Howard's hopes for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference upset.
Overlooked in the offensive display was the performance of Bison defensive back Doug Jones, who made six solo tackles -- all for State losses, and assisted on seven others.
Navy Coach George Welsh said he was "extremely pleased with my offensive unit" which has scored 76 points in the last two games, including a 45-6 win Saturday over William and Mary. The Midshipmen rolled up 555 yards in total offense, including 330 rushing.
Welsh's defense has allowed only nine points over the last two games "but I'm more pleased with the offense because we had so many preseason problems."
Welsh said he was extremely impressed with quarterback Fred Reitzel, who had his best performance of the year completing 13 of 16 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Midshipman defender Doug Donatelli injured his knee in the game and will be examined by team physicians this afternoon.
Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick said he told his Cavalier team at halftime of Saturday's game it would have to break several big plays to overcome Duke's 17-10 intermission lead.
So it hardly seemed surprising when the Cavs' defense held the Blue Devils in the second half long enough for Pat Chester to return a punt 70 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to earn Virginia a 20-17 victory.
"I told my special teams the night before that if they executed correctly we should break a punt return straight up the middle," Bestwick said. "Our specialty teams turned in a fine performance -- the best of the year."
However, Bestwick said he is unhappy with the blocking of the offensive unit and is concerned about the team's lack of consistency.
On the national scene, Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden decided to go for broke through the air, then watched helplessly as the Seminoles were beaten, 10-9, by Miami. The ninth-ranked Seminoles had scored with just 39 seconds remaining against 19th-ranked Miami and Bowden elected to go for a two-point conversion.
Quarterback Rick Stockstill fired toward the end zone and an open receiver, but Miami middle guard Jim Burt beat substitute Seminole center Redus Coggins and deflected the ball to preserve the game and give undefeated Miami its fourth victory, 10-9.
Elsewhere, Stanford turned in another major upset with a 31-14 victory over fourth-ranked Oklahoma. Three of quarterback John Elway's 14 completed passes went for touchdowns as the Sooners saw their 20-game home winning streak in Norman disappear.
Another upset saw Oregon upset 13th-ranked Pac-10 rival Washington, 34-10, at Seattle. In a late-night game, fifth-ranked Southern California rode the powerful rushing performance of tailback Marcus Allen (216 yards) to a 24-7 win over Minnesota for the Trojans' 23rd straight win.