Maryland football Coach Bobby Ross did not look like a man whose team was about to face its biggest test of the season.
Ross looked a little tired, but was smiling as he watched his Terrapins trudge off the practice field yesterday. True, their next opponent is Penn State, a team that has beaten Maryland the last 19 times, and, yes, the Nittany Lions are coming off their first loss of the year, a 28-3 defeat by Texas.
But Maryland (2-2) will head to University Park today with its healthiest squad in recent weeks. Several hobbled players have recovered and there were no significant new injuries this week.
Wide receiver Sean Sullivan, whose five touchdown catches last year ranked second on the team, practiced at full speed this week and will be available Saturday. Sullivan broke his right foot in the preseason and missed all four games.
"Having Sean back helps us strategically as well as psychologically," Ross said. "He's a reliable receiver and we're going to need that more than ever against Penn State."
Defensive lineman Tom Parker, who has had a bacterial infection and a sprained ankle, also practiced at full speed for the first time and will start at left tackle. Parker will replace Bruce Mesner, who, along with fellow lineman Neal Sampson, is sitting out the game because it conflicts with Yom Kippur.
"I wanted to play so badly, but I just can't," Mesner said. "It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, but it feels good having coach on my side."
Playing for Sampson at a backup guard spot will be freshmen Bob Arnold and Rob Klein.
Also, defensive back Donald Brown has recovered from an ankle injury and had no problems practicing this week.
However, reserve fullback Stephon Scriber, who suffered a shoulder injury last week, is "very questionable," according to Ross. "I'm in the process of deciding whether I should even take him with us." Tommy Neal and freshman Kevin Walker have been working in Scriber's spot.
Ross said quarterback Stan Gelbaugh, who will start for the injured Frank Reich, has looked sharp and the coach reaffirmed his confidence in the redshirt junior.
"If anything goes wrong (Saturday), it won't be Stan's fault, it'll be me," Ross said. "I feel Stan will play well. He has an advantage over last week (when Reich was injured and Gelbaugh came off the bench to complete all six pass attempts) because he's had a full week to practice with the first team. He didn't do that last week."
Ross also said freshman Darryl Wright, who will handle the punting while Gelbaugh concentrates on quarterbacking, has also looked impressive. Wright kicked several 50 yard punts yesterday, each with more than four seconds hang time.
Ross said he may start Greg Harraka at offensive left guard instead of Len Lynch because Lynch bruised his shoulder and missed some of the week's workouts.
"We'll probably wait right up until game time to make a decision, but Greg's had an excellent week," Ross said.
Reich's injury also forced another lineup change, as reserve quarterback Dan Henning will hold for field goal attempts.