There hasn't been much interest in a Maryland-Virginia football game the last decade because the Terrapins have won 11 straight and outscored Virginia, 343-82. A week before the season began, Maryland officials thought that if there was one home game that might not sell out, it would be Saturday's against Virginia.
By week's end, there may not be enough seats in Byrd Stadium.
The Terrapins, after a 13-7 victory over Pitt, are 2-1. And Virginia is 4-0, for what seems like the first time since Thomas Jefferson was a sophomore. The Cavaliers, after beating North Carolina State, 26-14, in Raleigh, also lead the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 2-0 record, which is the first time Virginia has won its first two conference games.
"We just seem to be playing well enough to win," Virginia Coach George Welsh said yesterday. "We're not dominating anybody; we just seem to be able to survive some scary situations."
Virginia survived on Saturday, even without the services of running back Antonio Rice, who had a bruised shoulder. Welsh said yesterday he expects Rice, a sophomore from McKinley Tech, to practice by Tuesday at the latest and play on Saturday.
"If anybody had told me we'd get 77 net yards rushing (against N.C. State) I'd say there was no way we could win," Welsh said.
Welsh may be the only person in Charlottesville who has expressed no excitement at the team's improvement from 2-9 last year to 4-0. "I don't know if we're that good," Welsh said. "There's such a big disparity between us and Maryland. I don't know if we're good enough for Maryland. We're still growing up in some ways. I'm leery about our football team going against people that good."
But the Cavaliers, in 343 offensive plays this season, have not lost a fumble. They have had only one fumble, when quarterback Wayne Schuchts dropped a snap from center in the opener against Duke and recovered the ball.
And, Virginia has moved inside its opponents' 20-yard line 15 times this season, and has scored each time--11 touchdowns and four field goals. The opponents, meanwhile, have moved inside Virginia's 20-yard line 14 times and scored only seven.
"I think they're playing very good football," Maryland Coach Bobby Ross said. "I just finished watching the defensive film and I know they're playing very good football. I think they're probably very comparable to us right now."
Before Maryland began looking ahead, the Terrapins looked back at one of the best performances ever by a Maryland linebacker. Eric Wilson, a junior from Charlottesville, made 26 tackles against Pitt to lead what was one of the best defensive performances for the Terrapins in three years.
The defense also took some of the pressure off Frank Reich. He started his first game at quarterback in place of Boomer Esiason, who sat out with sprained ligaments in his right (nonthrowing) arm. Esiason, who was medically cleared to play, stalked the sideline in Byrd Stadium and stuck his head into almost every offensive meeting. "I kept waiting for the coaches to ask my opinion, but they never did," said Esiason, who did manage to call a couple of plays to the receivers and instruct Reich, his roommate. "Boomer told me before the game he would be a maniac," Reich said. "And he was."
Esiason said he would practice Monday--Ross said that "if he's well, we'll start him in practice"--and hoped to be ready for Saturday.
Ross said he did not yet know the extent of inujries to two other starters: fullback Dave D'Addio, who bruised a thigh, and defensive tackle Pete Koch, who has either a strained or sprained ankle.
Navy defeated Lehigh, 30-0, in Annapolis for its first victory of the year after two defeats. But Coach Gary Tranquill said the offense must play much better at Washington next week. "We had six possessions inside midfield and we scored on only two," Tranquill said. "We looked like a decent offensive team after halftime, but the offensive sputtering has taken a mental toll on the defense.
"The defense, at halftime, was talking shutout," Tranquill said. "And if that's what they think it will take, fine."
The defense only watched, however, while Napoleon McCallum rushed for 146 yards and became the No. 7 all-time rushing leader with 1,455 career yards. "He's running intelligently," Tranquill said. Andy Ponseigo, the preseason all-America linebacker, recorded 13 tackles and had two interceptions.