Another wave of injuries has rolled over the Maryland football team, this time claiming the Terrapins' most productive running back, John Nash, with a bruised knee, and defensive end Mark Wilson with a sprained knee.
Wilson, who was instrumental in Saturday's victory over Wake Forest, had his right knee placed in a splint yesterday and will be lost for at least two weeks, possibly for the season. Nash, who gained 240 yards rushing in his two games as a starter, did not have contact practice yesterday, but said he hopes to play in the Terrapins' homecoming game Saturday against Duke.
With Nash injured, the Terrapins are practicing this week without their top four runners. All-Atlantic Coast Conference tailback Charlie Wysocki is suffering from a bruised left shoulder he incurred two weeks ago, then aggravated Saturday. Tailback Willie Joyner is limping badly from injuries to his groin and hamstring, and fullback Jeff Rodenberger is out for the week with a bruised collarbone.
For now, Vernon Carter, a freshman defensive end, is practicing as the No. 1 tailback. He carried six times for 29 yards against Wake Forest in limited duty. Joe Brkovich is the starting fullback.
"Seems like I'm handing off to someone different every day," quarterback Norman (Boomer) Esiason said of his musical-chairs backfield. "I don't remember having the same backfield for three straight practices."
The worries will be alleviated if Nash, a versatile fullback/tailback, gets well by Saturday. "Nash is talented and has natural moves," Coach Jerry Claiborne said yesterday. "I've always said John was one of our best backs, if he stays healthy . . . "
Nash, a junior from Baltimore, hurt a knee in his first scrimmage as a freshman and has suffered numerous injuries since. "It's like Ping-Pong," Nash said yesterday, "left knee, right knee . . . left knee, right knee. It used to always be my ankles; now it's the knees. Watch out, hamstrings."
This season Nash, 6-feet-1, 215 pounds, has performed well despite his injuries and a bad case of asthma that kept him out of the first two games. Normally a fullback, Nash relieved an injured Wysocki at North Carolina State three weeks ago and rushed for 104 yards, including 86 in the fourth quarter, when he carried the ball for Maryland's last 11 plays.
On Saturday, three Wake Forest tacklers pounced on Wysocki's bruised shoulder in the first quarter, sending him to the sideline. "When I saw Charlie walking to the huddle with his left arm just kind of dangling there, I just put my helmet on and ran onto the field," Nash said. "Nobody had to say anything. I realized I had to come through."
Nash did. He gained 136 yards rushing in 32 carries and caught three passes for 87 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown pass. On that long reception, a Wake Forest defensive back soared in front of Nash for the interception. But he missed, with Nash catching the ball at the 20.
"What defensive back?" Nash said afterward. "I didn't see anybody." Nash didn't know the ball nearly had been intercepted until he saw the game film.
"That shows how hard he was concentrating," Esiason said. "They (the coaches) like to call more passing plays when John is in the lineup. I feel really comfortable passing when he's in there."
Nash attributes his success as a receiver to a contest he and Joyner have had since last summer.
"It's called the quarter game," Nash said. "Every time Willie or I drop a pass in practice or a game, we put a quarter into the kitty. I don't know who's behind right now. Neither of us ever pays up, so I guess it's an imaginary quarter and an imaginary kitty. But it helps both of us concentrate on never dropping a pass. That's the goal of the game.
"I consider pass receiving my strong point," Nash continued. "That and stepping out of tackles. I wear a size 8 shoe, and everybody teases me about having little feet. It's hard for tacklers to grab my feet. Look, there just isn't much to grab."
Nash exercised his swollen left knee yesterday and said he hopes to return to practice this afternoon. "Maybe these injuries will leave me alone, just for a little while," he said.