John Nash is the man without a position on the Maryland football team. He's part tailback, part fullback, part receiver and, when he throws an option pass, part quarterback.
Nash displayed all of his skills yesterday for 35,100 at Byrd Stadium, rushing 13 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Terrapins past Wake Forest, 52-31, in an Atlantic Coast Conference game in which losing quarterback Gary Schofield completed 40 of an ACC-record 65 attempts for 363 yards. His passing set up four short touchdown runs by freshman Mike Ramseur.
In leading Maryland to its fourth straight victory, Nash scored on runs of 12 yards early in the second quarter, 67 yards just before halftime and five yards late in the third quarter. He caught one pass for 24 yards and threw one incomplete pass that might have gone for a touchdown if the receiver hadn't fallen down.
Nash, a senior from Baltimore, led a Maryland offense that rushed for 345 yards and gained 537 total yards, both season highs.
"It seems like John has played every position since I've been here," said quarterback Boomer Esiason, who threw three touchdown passes. "Maybe he can play defensive guard next week."
Esiason was referring to the knee injury suffered in the second quarter by Mike Corvino, a senior defensive guard. Corvino, Maryland's undisputed team leader, will miss the next two games; depending upon what further examination reveals, he may be out longer, according to team physician Stanford Lavine.
Many would agree that Corvino's injury and Nash's exploits overshadowed Schofield's efforts on a very windy day. The Wake Forest junior's 40 completions and 65 passes are both NCAA highs for this season.
Schofield had a chance to break the NCAA record for pass attempts in one game (69), but couldn't move the ball on Wake's last possession, forcing the Deacons to punt on fourth down with two minutes remaining.
Last year against Maryland, Schofield completed 43 of 62 passes for 504 yards. The Terrapins ranked last in the conference in pass defense last year, and were ranked last going into yesterday's game. So there was little question about how Wake would try to attack Maryland. Coach Al Groh said afterward he was committed to passing from the opening kickoff.
Schofield was successful at completing his favorite passes, dumpoffs to running backs and tight ends. But he completed only one long one (42 yards) and the Maryland secondary made several good defensive plays.
Coach Bobby Ross said his secondary "held up pretty well."
While Wake's fortune rested with the success and durability of Schofield's throwing arm, Maryland found it could run the ball with surprising ease, especially after Esiason completed only one of his first nine passes, for one yard.
Maryland (4-2, 2-0 in the ACC) took a 3-0 lead on Jess Atkinson's 50-yard field goal (a career best), which was set up by runs of 16 and 18 yards by tailback Willie Joyner, who rushed 14 times for 77 yards.
A four-play drive, all rushing plays, gave Maryland a 10-0 lead three plays into the second quarter when Nash sidestepped two tacklers inside the five en route to a 12-yard touchdown.
Ramseur ran one yard for his first touchdown, pulling Wake to within 10-7. But Nash countered with his 67-yard run in which he outran four Wake defenders the last 30 yards down the left sideline, keeping his balance after being spun completely around by a defender on a near shoestring tackle.
Maryland went ahead, 24-7, on the first of Esiason's three touchdown passes, a 22-yarder to Greg Hill. It went to 31-10 early in the second half on Esiason's 28-yard pass to Hill, who broke two tackles inside the 10. That was one of the plays that prompted Groh to say, "We did a very poor job of tackling."
But Schofield didn't have to tackle -- just throw. He completed five of seven passes, including a five-yard screen on fourth and four, to set up Ramseur's one-yard touchdown run, which pulled Wake Forest within 31-17.
Maryland's Tim Quander fumbled the ensuing kickoff on his own 19 and Wake came within 31-24 on a six-yard pass by Schofield and a 13-yard run off a draw by Ramseur.
But the Terrapins regrouped. Esiason completed a 22-yard pass to Spencer Scriber and a 28-yarder to Russell Davis. The passes were complemented by the rushing of freshman fullback Rick Badanjek and Nash. Badanjek's two-yard touchdown run put Maryland ahead, 38-24, with four minutes left in the third quarter, leaving Schofield's pursuit of passing records as the only suspense.
Nash's third touchdown run and Esiason's 24-yard pass to Mike Lewis completed the scoring for the Terrapins and gave Maryland its highest point output since a 62-24 victory over Virginia in 1975.
The big questions posed afterward were about Nash's status as a non-starting, all-purpose back, and Corvino's injury.
Ross said, "We'll pretty much continue to use John Nash the way we've been using him; like a sixth man in basketball."
Corvino's injury was a little more worrisome. Mark Duda, the imposing defensive tackle, called Corvino "the catalyst for our defense. He's talkative, spirited and he gets us up. We won't have to wait for next week to feel his loss. We felt it today."
Some of the Terrapins refuse to believe Corvino will miss much time, even though ligament injuries are often serious.
"He'll be back," said Hill. "He's the captain. We have backups and all that. But he's got guts."