No member of the Maryland football team will be happier at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday than tailback Charlie Wysocki. It will not be until then, when the Terrapins take on fifth-ranked Pittsburgh, that the 5-foot-11 junior will have a chance to redeem himself.
Last Saturday, against North Carolina, in one of the biggest games of his life, Charlie Wysocki played the worst game of his life. He says, he will not be able to begin forgetting that nightmare until he plays another game.
"That was the worst I've ever played. In fact, it was the worst day I've ever had as an athlete, either in football or in wrestling," Wysocki said, sitting on a grassy bank after the Terps finished practice yesterday. "What I did was like going out and getting pinned in two seconds. It's something I'll never forget the rest of my life."
Wysocki's lost afternoon consisted of 12 carries. Three times, all in the first half and all on first down, he funbled. He finished the day with 17 yards total after averaging 150 yards per game the first three weeks of the season.
Gleeful, members of the Carolina defense claimed that Wysocki had been intimidated because linebacker Darrell Nicholson knocked Wysocki cold last year. Wysocki said that was not true: "Nicholson is a good linebacker, but he's not fit to sign Ottis Wilson's (a Louisville linebacker Wysocki faced last year) shoes.
"If they want to do a lot of talking, that's fine. I had a bad day, I'm not trying to duck that. So let them say what they want."
Wysocki wanted to talk about pittsburgh. He knows the memory of Carolina will always be with him, but he also knows he can dull that memory by coming up with big games the next two weeks against the Panthers and Penn State.
"I'll begin to push the bad memories to the back of my mind when I get in the game Saturday and start doing things right," Wysocki said. "I'm really looking forward to this. Pittsburgh is near my home (Wilkes-Barre) and I'll have a lot of friends and relatives there.
"Usually, in practice, the guys like me to do a lot of talking to keep everyone up. I'm not doing that this week. I'm just being real quiet and trying to concentrate on playing my game. I know I just can't make the mistakes like I did again. And I know Pittsburgh will be going for the ball whenever I carry."
The Wysocki rejuvenation project is not a one-man affair.Saturday, after returning to College Park, he stayed up late talking with his parents. Immediately after the game, Fay Claiborne, Coach Jerry Claiborne's wife, took Wysocki aside to tell him not to worry about the bad day. And, since Saturday, Wysocki says he has received a number of letters and phone calls, from both friends and strangers, offering him encouragement.
"I really appreciate the way people have been," Wysocki said. "It's really good to know people still back you even after you have a bad day."
Ultimately, however, the job of turning Wysocki back into the Wysocki who breaks tackles instead of his team's drives lies with three people: Claiborne, running back Coack Tom Groom and Wysocki.
"Anytime my kids have a day like Saturday, I have to look at myself and see what I did wrong," said Groom. "After that, it's a matter of getting back to fundamentals in practice.We all have to make sure we learn from our mistakes and keep them from happening again. Charlie's still only fumbled four times in 107 carries. That's a pretty good percentage.We just have to keep them from coming in bunches."
Claiborne, who would remain undaunted if he had to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers singlehanded, has taken the one-game-doesn't-make-a-season approach. "After the game, I went up and I hugged Charlie Wysocki's neck," Claiborne said. "He's done some great things for us in the past, and I know he will again in the future."
Wysocki's per-game average dropped from 157 to 122 yards. He now has 487 yards for the season . . . Pete Glamp will have an arthroscopic examination on his twisted knee to determine whether he needs surgery. The senior defensive end may be lost for the season . . . Wide reciever Chris Havener pulled a hamstring in practice. The injury does not appear serious but he sat out the remainder of the day . . . Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino is listed as questionable for Saturday. If the sophomore cannot start, senior Rick Trocano, the starter in 1978, will take the helm.