Maryland and Navy won't have to compete with the National Football League for attention this weekend, so their players say they are looking forward to bigger crowds. But they haven't forgotten they still have to win.
"This should be great," said Maryland defensive lineman Mike Corvino. "We're going to get more attention. I'm sorry it's taking a NFL strike to put us in the spotlight. But it should really be exciting here."
Maryland, after two close defeats on the road against nationally ranked opponents, opens its Atlantic Coast Conference season against North Carolina State at 1:30 p.m. today in Byrd Stadium. Navy plays rejuvenated Boston College at 2 p.m. in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"This could be a make or break game for a successful season," said Maryland receiver Russell Davis. "We need to turn things around tomorrow."
Said linebacker Eric Wilson, "I don't think we're putting too much pressure on ourselves by thinking that way. We just feel pressed to get a win . . . The strike will make a difference for us. It pumps us up to have some extra attention."
Maryland officials say they are expecting about 35,000, but that figure could improve. The school's athletic department has run a newspaper ad telling fans of the Redskins and Baltimore Colts there will be football in College Park.
Said Davis: "I hope if we do get some stray fans, that they'll like it and keep coming back. I guess George Michaels' TV highlights will have to be on us and not the Redskins."
"People ought to come spend their money to see the Terps this weekend since there's nothing on Sunday," said defensive end Howard Eubanks. "There's a lot of newness happening here. People have been asking for something new. They should give us a chance to show them."
The Terrapins are so new the home fans might not recognize them. Maryland has passed more than run in the first two games and played Penn State and West Virginia down to the final possession. Maryland may run the ball more today, however, against a small North Carolina State defensive front.
The Wolfpack, too, has a new approach to the game. State, with vastly improved quarterback Tol Avery, has suddenly embraced the forward pass, and is now 3-0. The defense, led by the best secondary in the ACC, has two shutouts. But it's difficult to tell how good State really is because its toughest opponent in the three victories was not-very-good Wake Forest.
The Wolfpack was 3-0 last year, but lost to Maryland, 34-9, at home and ended the season by losing six straight.
"State's a much better 3-0 team now than they were last year," Coach Bobby Ross said before yesterday's short workout. "They're a greatly improved offensive team."
Corvino said, "If we don't close in on Tol, he can run for some yards. A guy who scrambles like he does is more vulnerable because he's out of his pocket protection. But we still have to pressure him."
At Navy, Boston College won't need an invitation to pass. Eagles quarterback Doug Flutie has thrown for 598 yards in two games. BC upset host Texas A&M in its opener and tied defending national champion Clemson last week.
Flutie is described by his coach, Jack Bicknell as having a "reckless, aggressive style."
Navy Coach Gary Tranquill said Flutie has "a knack, a way of avoiding people, of making a big play out of nothing. He makes the rest of the guys play better."
The Midshipmen (1-1) could pass more than usual. "You always go in hoping to run the ball," Tranquill said. "But I'm not going to beat a dead horse. If we can't move it, we'll throw it. I feel more comfortable with Marco (quarterback Pagnanelli) than I did the first week."
Howard will be seeking its first victory at South Carolina State since 1973, in tonight's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game in Orangeburg, S.C. And in another ACC game, 0-2 Virginia will visit Duke, which won its first two games before a combined total of 160,000 fans, at Tennessee and South Carolina. Northwestern Streaks On
Northwestern University (0-3) has a better-than-usual chance today to end its NCAA record losing streak of 34 games.
The Wildcats host Northern Illinois (1-1), a member of the Mid-American Conference. Last week Northwestern lost to Miami of Ohio, 27-13; Northern Illinois defeated Kent State, 23-15.
After today's game, Northwestern returns to its formidable Big Ten schedule, finishing the season against Iowa, Minneota, Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, in that order.