Maryland's defensive line, which held North Carolina State to zero yards rushing last week, overwhelmed Syracuse today in leading the Terrapins to a 26-3 victory before 30,214 in the Carrier Dome.
Mike Corvino, Gurnest Brown, Frank Kolencik, Mark Duda and a gang of others were painfully dominant as the Terrapins won their second straight game after two close defeats at Penn State and West Virginia.
Maryland came into today's game with the fifth-best defense in the nation against the run, allowing 68 yards per game. Against Syracuse, the Terrapins allowed only 23 yards rushing on 28 carries. Maryland sacked two quarterbacks six times, including one by linebacker Mike Muller that knocked starter Greg Christodulu unconscious and out of the game.
"Our defensive line was creaming people all day," Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason said, cringing.
The Maryland offense also was impressive against a Syracuse team that lost for the fourth time in five games.
The Terrapins rushed for 205 yards and passed for 214. Tailback Willie Joyner ran for 86 yards. Esiason completed 15 of 26 passes for 197 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown to John Nash that put Maryland ahead, 10-0, and proved to be the winning score.
And there was Jesse Atkinson, the kicker from Crossland High School, who kicked four field goals, giving him nine in 10 attempts this season. "I can't say enough about Jesse," said Maryland Coach Bobby Ross. "Each of those four kicks was straight through the middle."
Atkinson and his high school classmate, punter Alan Sadler, who averaged 44 yards per kick, kept Syracuse in poor field position all afternoon.
Syracuse punter Jay Ross, on the other hand, helped Maryland score its first 10 points with short kicks.
A 34-yard punt by Ross midway through the first quarter gave Maryland the ball at its 42. The Terrapins got close enough for Atkinson to kick his first field goal, a 25-yarder, which gave Maryland a 3-0 lead 12 minutes into the game.
Ross' 26-yard punt early in the second quarter allowed Maryland to begin at its 47. Fullback Dave D'Addio, who rushed for 49 yards, got a first down at the Syracuse 43.
On the next play, Esiason threw to Nash over the middle, at the 23. Nash gave a head fake to cornerback John Roos, then sidestepped safety Derek Frederickson en route to the touchdown.
The Maryland defense gets the credit for the next touchdown. Christodulu, a freshman making his first start, had run the option play for eight yards earlier in the quarter. He decided to try it again on third and 10 from his six.
He faked right again, but the Maryland defenders weren't fooled. Christodulu lowered his helmet at the line of scrimmage and was smacked by Muller. The ball popped loose and end Brian Baker recovered at the two. The Terrapins increased their lead to 17-0 two plays later when D'Addio went over from the one.
"I put my head down a little too far I guess," Christodulu said. "I was pretty woozy the rest of the game."
Todd Norley, another freshman quarterback, came in and led an impressive 63-yard drive to the Maryland 12. He completed passes of 24, 11 and 28 yards, but on second and eight, cornerback Gil Hoffman stepped in front of the intended receiver, Nick Bruckner, and intercepted the ball in the end zone.
Norley completed 18 of 30 passes for 199 yards, mostly on screen passes. He was harried and hit often.
With the defense constantly giving the offense the ball in good field position, Maryland should have scored more than two touchdowns, Bobby Ross said. Atkinson made it 20-0 five minutes before halftime on a 36-yard field goal, then kicked a 39-yarder in the third quarter and a 26-yarder in the fourth.
Syracuse's points came at the end of the third quarter on a 44-yard field goal by Russ Carpentieri, after a 17-play, 66-yard drive that lasted seven minutes.
"You've got to be able to run the ball to win," said Brown. "You ain't winnin' if you ain't runnin'."
Syracuse couldn't run. Jaime Covington, a sophomore halfback, was its leading rusher, gaining 22 yards on five carries.
"I thought this would be a trench-like game," Ross said. He was right.