When the Maryland Terrapins walked into Vanderbilt Stadium this evening, dressed all spiffy in their coats and ties, they met something new: expectations.
Television cameras covered every move. Lynn Swann, now a television commentator, wanted interviews. Quarterback Boomer Esiason's picture was splashed all over newspapers in the Volunteer State.
The message is clear. The 17th-ranked Terrapins are expected to win football games now. They begin the season Saturday at 3:20 in a contest against Vanderbilt (WJLA-TV-7). And Maryland is expected to win, at least by the oddsmakers who say the Terrapins are 3 1/2-point favorites.
"There are expectations and we have to acknowledge them," said Len Lynch, the right guard. "Last year, we went into Penn State not knowing how good we were. Now we know what we can do. We are confident."
Maryland will have to be more than confident Saturday, however. The Terrapins will have to be good, especially on defense, to beat Vanderbilt.
The Commodore coaches say they expect quarterback Kurt Page to throw about 50 passes. "Is that all they expect to throw?" asked Maryland Coach Bobby Ross, beginning his second season. "I expect more than that."
It's not just the passing Maryland is worried about. Vanderbilt will run plays from more than 50 formations, including the power-I, the veer, the wishbone. "Backs are all over the place," said Bob Brush, the Vanderbilt defensive coordinator. "Who knows where they're going? As a person who coaches linebackers, I can tell you that trying to read can become a guessing game."
Ross, concerned about his eight new defensive starters, said, "This is the most multiple offense we will see this season, and we're a young defense."
Maryland doesn't rely on as much trickery, but defending the Terrapins can be a guessing game, too. "If we have the ball for 80 plays, we'll put it up 40 times," Ross said. "It could be a long afternoon."
It also will be a chance at redemption for the Terrapins, who lost here in the season opener two years ago, 23-17, in the first game played at Vanderbilt Stadium. Esiason was a third-stringer then; he got into the game for two plays, to hold for place kicks. Today, Commodore Coach George MacIntyre called Esiason "the premier quarterback in the nation."
But Vanderbilt will be concerned with others. Willie Joyner, Maryland's 1,000-yard rusher, has had a superb summer practice, which has excited Ross. Dave D'Addio, who missed last year's opener with an injury, will start at fullback. Rick Badanjek, now a sophomore, will spell both. Russell Davis and Greg Hill will start at the receiver spots, and there are several very good offensive linemen.
"Just put it this way," said punter Alan Sadler. "We can score any time we want to."
Of course, Maryland will have to score against a defense that includes cornerback Len Coleman, a sure all-America, and free safety Manuel Young and defensive end Steve Bearden, two players of all-Southeastern Conference ability. And, quite naturally, they are excited here in Nashville, where for once the Grand Ol' Opry will be second fiddle. If 200 seats can be sold before game time, it will be the first nonconference sellout here since 1976 when Oklahoma came to town on opening day.
Donald Brown, the transfer running back from Oklahoma who made the traveling squad as a kick returner, was declared ineligible for the entire season, the NCAA told Maryland.
"Last week, we were told he was eligible. Thursday, we were told he was ineligible. But we talked to the NCAA again, and they said he hadn't extablished residency," Ross said.
"He had to establish residency (after transferring), but it had to be at a junior college or the main campus. He went to a branch (the Maryland night school) and the NCAA decided that didn't count." Ross said Brown, from Annapolis High, will stay in school and be eligible for two years.