Although Maryland moved into the top 20 for the first time this season after last Saturday's upset of North Carolina, Terrapin players are confident that overconfidence won't be a problem when they play the Miami Hurricanes today at Byrd Stadium.
A crowd of more than 41,000, the largest of the season, is expected for the 1:30 game between the Terrapins (6-2), ranked 17th by UPI and 19th by AP, and Miami, which was ranked most of the season before losing last week to Florida State. A victory could help Maryland's chances for a major bowl bid, but the Terrapins, who have won six straight, say they are keeping things in perspective.
"We can stay on an emotional high because we have to prove it again," said quarterback Boomer Esiason. "Some people still think last week was a fluke. We haven't patted ourselves on the back yet."
Said defensive tackle Mark Duda: "The coaches have been telling us all week that Miami is terrific, that they were No. 16 last week. We don't think they're any less than Carolina."
In other games involving area colleges, Virginia, which has won two straight, plays at Georgia Tech and Navy visits Syracuse. Howard University is idle.
Most of the pregame attention at Maryland has centered on Miami freshman Kyle Vanderwende, who will make his first start at quarterback. He has played only six downs at Miami.
There were reports in College Park yesterday that Jim Kelly, one of the top quarterbacks in the country before suffering a separated throwing shoulder early in the season, would return and start.
Miami Coach Howard Schnellenberger started laughing when asked if the reports were true. "Right now I'm watching a TV program about a rainmaker, and that makes about as much sense as Jim Kelly playing quarterback tomorrow," Schnellenberger said. "Kyle Vanderwende is the man of the hour."
Kelly will play no more college football, Schnellenberger said. Senior Mark Richt, who replaced Kelly, won't play because he was suspended for one game for violating a team rule.
Maryland's defensive players, especially rough on opposing quarterbacks this season, took a wait-and-see approach on Vanderwende.
"He's an unknown quantity," said Duda. "It bothers me a bit that we haven't even been able to see him on film. You have to wonder how he'll react, but it could go either way. The pressure could get to him, which we hope happens, or he could decide to take things into his own hands and play well.
"We're not going to just go after him until we find out what he can do. We're approaching him as if he's a fine quarterback."
Vanderwende said this week he wants to avoid making a crucial mistake early in the game. If that happens, he says confidence and composure will replace the jitters.
Esiason knows what Vanderwende is experiencing.
"Last year, we went into our second game of the season with our third-string quarterback," Esiason said, referring to himself. "You're apprehensive, you don't know what to expect. He (Vanderwende) will have his hands full. He'll have a lot on his mind, especially with a defense that has the reputation ours does.
"But it's not like this guy is some slouch. Miami is a passing team that wouldn't have recruited the kid if he wasn't capable."
Miami also has a good rushing offense with halfback Keith Griffin, brother of former Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, and Speedy Neal, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound tailback. Add senior all-purpose back Mark Rush, the team's third-leading receiver, and the Hurricanes have a diverse offense similar to Maryland's.
Miami, even with a freshman quarterback, is capable of hurting Maryland with medium-range, over-the-middle passes. Miami has fast receivers in Rocky Belk (Fort Hunt High), Lawrence Thompson and tight end Glenn Dennison. The Hurricanes could pose more of a threat than North Carolina because they don't need the ball long to score.
If Navy is to get a bowl bid, the Midshipmen must win their last three games, beginning at Syracuse. Navy has had seven first- or second-team players injured in the last two weeks, including four defensive ends. Syracuse, with tailback Jaime Covington playing well, is likely to test the Midshipmen's ends early.