Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne said yesterday that he and his team are not going to panic even though the Terrapins lost their second straight game, 17-13, to West Virginia Saturday.
"Our jobs are harder now than they were at the start of the season," Claiborne said. "The players and coaches are all very upset about the loss, but there are nine games left in the season. We're not going to fall apart."
After studying films of Saturday's game, Claiborne acknowledged, "We just made so many mistakes it was pitiful."
The Terps led, 13-10, with less than three minutes remaining. But a fumble by punt returner Lendell Jones, followed by a pass interference penalty in the end zone against cornerback Jon Simmons, set up the Mountaineers' winning score, a one-yard run by quarterback Oliver Luck.
Claiborne cited "lack of concentration, players not thinking and players not executing like they were taught" as the reasons for so many critical mistakes. "They're things we can correct if we work harder," the coach said. "I hope they'll respond to coaching like I think they will."
The Terps, who were defeated in their season opener by Vanderbilt, have lost their first two games for the first time since 1974. Those defeats were to bowl-bound Alabama and Florida teams.
When asked if he is worried about the possibility of fans and alumni withdrawing support after two error-filled defeats, Caliborne replied, "If there are any fans or alums who would stop supporting us after two losses in an 11-game season, we don't need those fans or those alumni."
The Terps have had key players injured the last two weeks, but did not have any new injuries Saturday, Claiborne said. All-ACC tailback Charlie Wysocki missed the game with a tender right ankle, but said he should be back against North Carolina State Saturday night in Raleigh. Brent Dewitz, who started the opener at quarterback, probably is out for the season with cartilage and ligament damage to his right knee, for which he underwent surgery Friday. Bob Milkovich, listed as the second-string quarterback, sat out the West Virginia game with bruised ribs, forcing Claiborne to start sophomore Norman (Boomer) Esiason, who never had played a down of varsity football.
Esiason threw incomplete to a well-covered Mike Lewis late in the third quarter while tight end John Tice roamed free in the middle of the end zone. The Terps missed a 37-yard field goal attempt on that possession.
In the same period, Esiason called the wrong play on third and goal from the four, in which he ran to the short side of the field. The Terps had to settle for a 21-yard field goal and a 6-3 lead. Esiason completed 15 of 32 passes, had two interceptions and said he would have nightmares about his first varsity play -- a 15-yard sack.
Claiborne said he was pleased, overall, with Esiason's performance. When asked if the six-week quarterback dilemma now is resolved, he replied, "Oh Lord, we haven't come to any type of decision on that yet."
Wysocki's injury was less significant because third-string tailback Willie Joyner ran the ball 30 times for 96 yards with what Claiborne said was less-than-average blocking from his offensive line. Joyner came into the game after a fumble by second-stringer Tim Whittie led to a West Virginia field goal that tied the game, 3-3, in the second quarter.
Although Claiborne will not specifically say so, he seems disturbed that Maryland's fan support at both games has been poor. Only about 200 fans bought tickets for the opener in Nashville, and West Virginia's 5,000 to 6,000 fans in the West end zone outshouted the Terp fans much of the game.
"We need about 5,000 or 6,000 fans to support us in Raliegh," he said.
Howard also lost by making crucial mistakes. Bison Coach Floyd Keith did not even bother making excuses for his offensive line after Bethune-Cookman sacked quarterback Raymond Gray nine times for 64 yards in losses in a 19-13 Wildcat victory Saturday night.
But Keith was stunned by the his team's inability to hang onto the football. Howard fumbled seven times, losing four. Wide receiver Tracy Singleton fumbled after a 24-yard reception in the third quarter that would have given the Bison a first down at the Wildcat 20. With two running backs hurt, Keith sent in sophomore Anthony Evans for the first time on a first-and-goal situation from the two in the fourth quarter. Evans fumbled on the play.
In a 33-23 opening game win against Cheyney State, Howard fumbled three times.
Nationally, the team occupying the No. 1 spot has lost in consecutive weeks. Michigan, which lost its top ranking last week by losing to Wisconsin, knocked Notre Dame out of the No. 1 position Saturday with a 25-7 victory over Notre Dame in Ann Arbor, Mich.
It was the first defeat as a college football coach for Gerry Faust, Notre Dame's first-year coach, who has already been exalted by Irish fans and the national media after just two games.