Maryland's final scrimmage yesterday before meeting Penn State Sept. 11 showed a topsy-turvy situation most Terrapin observers are not accustomed to. The intricate passing offense installed by Coach Bobby Ross showed fine promise. But the running game, the staple of Maryland teams the past decade, was inconsistent and unproductive.
Quarterback Boomer Esiason completed 13 of 16 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown in little more than a half. Esiason's shortest completion was seven yards (the receiver fell down) and his longest was a 60-yard touchdown pass to Russell Davis off a play-action fake, something rarely used at Maryland in past years.
Esiason and the first-team passing game were impressive, even if the unit was competing against the Terrapin scout team of second- and third-string defenders.
"I finally feel I know the offense inside and out," Esiason said after the full-game scrimmage in Byrd Stadium. "I'm more comfortable now than I've been since I've been here."
"I was very pleased with the throwing game," said Ross. "I was pleasantly surprised. Last week, we had four or five dropped passes, but today we had only one in the first half." His enthusiasm was tempered, however, by a poor performance by backup quarterback Stan Gelbaugh, who started workouts this year making a bid for the starting job, but has since tailed off.
Ross was also disappointed in the running attack, which under Coach Jerry Claiborne had traditionally been one of the team's strengths.
The first-team offense gained only 44 yards on 14 rushing plays. The most impressive runner was Troy Island, a junior college transfer who is third on the depth chart, but who had runs of five, 12 and 22 yards on three straight plays. The running game produced only three first downs, while the passing game produced 11.
"We've got to improve our running game right now," Ross said. "We had too many individual breakdowns and no consistency. We just can't afford those breakdowns."
Some of the inconsistency in the offensive-line blocking was caused by the absence of junior guard Ron Solt, who suffered a sprained ankle on the first play and didn't play again. His injury was not believed to be serious, however.
Ross' other disappointment was the number of penalties. The offense had nine penalties for 72 yards, many of them committed by the first team. "We simply can't have those," Ross said. "It seems like a lot of the penalties came with fatigue."
In last Saturday's scrimmage, the running attack was more successful than the passing game. "It's still a case of putting the total package together," Ross said.
The first-team offense went 65 yards on seven plays to score the first touchdown. Esiason completed a 14-yarder to Mike Lewis, a 26-yard screen pass to tailback Willie Joyner and a 13-yarder to tailback Vernon Carter. Tim Whittie scored on a one-yard run.
Two of the remaining three scoring drives were similar, with Esiason completing medium-range passes to his backs -- Lewis, Davis and walk-on Darryl Emerson.
Davis caught five passes for 109 yards, including the 60-yard touchdown. Alan Sadler may have secured the starting punting job with with two high punts that were unreturnable. Glenn Watson, a walk-on from New Carrollton, punted six times, averaging only 33.8 yards.