Maryland could have set all kinds of records for meaningless points and yards today, but treated its hosts with compassion, settling for a 43-7 victory over dreadful Duke in Wallace Wade Stadium.
In going over .500 for the first time this season, the Terrapins also remained undefeated and in first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference (4-3, 3-0).
Stan Gelbaugh, in his third straight start at quarterback, completed his first seven passes and finished 10 of 12 for 207 yards. Gelbaugh was replaced in the second half by senior Frank Reich.
Tommy Neal rushed nine times for 122 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass for another touchdown as Maryland gained 549 yards in total offense, scored on five of seven possessions in the first half and finished with four touchdown passes and a 54-yard reverse run.
To keep the margin from growing any wider, Maryland fell on the ball twice late in the game, near Duke's 10-yard line. By then, hardly any of the 17,500 fans remained in the stands.
Duke never had the first notion of how to stop Maryland, and was gambling with various defenses down after down early in the game. "We could have thrown deep on just about every down," one Maryland player said afterward.
"All in all, they just dominated the play of the game," said Duke Coach Steve Sloan, whose team lost its sixth straight, including the last three by a total of 162-38. "We didn't have many drives. Didn't even have the ball very much in the first half and didn't do much with it in the second half when we had it.
"Maryland's a fine team," Sloan said, "and we're not in their league at this point in time. Well, we're in the ACC, but we're not on their level."
Duke didn't get its second first down of the game until late in the first half and by that time Maryland led, 29-0. Duke got a 48-yard touchdown reception/run by Julius Grantham later in that drive, but trailed at halftime, 29-7.
The first three Maryland touchdowns were thrown by Gelbaugh, who Ross said "played flawlessly; I don't know what else you could ask from a quarterback."
On Maryland's first possession, Gelbaugh didn't throw a touchdown pass, but he did hit Greg Hill for 24 yards, and Alvin Blount for 29 more to set up Rick Badanjek's one-yard run, his eighth touchdown of the season.
The Terrapins went ahead, 14-0, on Gelbaugh's 15-yard pass to Neal. Jess Atkinson, Maryland's all-ACC kicker, made his 107th point-after-touchdown kick, to break the league's record and extend his string of consecutive conversions to 95.
But after his 32-yard field goal and the next touchdown, Atkinson broke his streak by missing, wide right.
It was the first time since Oct. 24, 1981 -- against Duke in Byrd Stadium -- that Atkinson had failed on a point after touchdown. He threw a mini-tantrum on the sideline, but didn't even know he had broken the record.
The touchdown which preceded that, a 32-yard pass from Gelbaugh to Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof, was the swift receiver's first score of the season. "And I bobbled the ball at least three, maybe four times, before I finally grabbed it," Abdur-Ra'oof said.
Gelbaugh's 47-yard pass to Hill made it 29-0. Gelbaugh's performance was not lost on Maryland linebacker Chuck Faucette, who watched from the sideline in amazement. "Control, man. He runs an offense. He's fast -- they can't sack him -- he throws TDs on the run. The guy is unbelievable."
Reich, who had been out of the lineup with a mild shoulder separation, threw a touchdown of his own -- a 25-yarder to tight end Bill Rogers, who took the third-down screen pass and did some fancy stepping, considering he weighs 240 pounds. Rusty on his first two passes, Reich completed four of seven for 62 yards.
Ross said last week that Reich, under normal circumstances, would regain his starting job (lost when he separated his right shoulder Sept. 29 against Wake). But there was nothing normal about Gelbaugh's performance.
Today, when Ross was asked about his starting quarterback, he said, "I'll have to sit down, look at it, analyze it."
He reiterated the team policy about starters not losing their jobs because of injury, but added, "There is the policy, but we've got to tie it into performance. We'll have to . . . make a decision."
Gelbaugh said that if Reich is 100 percent healthy for the upcoming game, Reich should start.
Abdur-Ra'oof said, "If Frank starts, fine; if Stan starts, fine. All I know is we're moving the ball."
Maryland is moving the ball well enough to be pretty confident going into consecutive games at North Carolina (next week), at Miami, and against Clemson in Baltimore.
Ross was also mostly pleased with his defense, which allowed Duke (1-6, 0-2) only 203 yards of total offense, intercepted two passes, and recorded five sacks.
"All I know," said Faucette, "is that I only had four or five tackles today because Duke's backs were hardly ever getting through the line."
Maryland finished its scoring on the flashiest play of the game. Neal took a handoff and went right, as if running a sweep.
He faked a reverse handoff to receiver James Milling, which stopped the Duke defense, then kept running. Neal got a "shield" block from Abdur-Ra'oof downfield and ran 54 yards for the touchdown and a 43-7 lead.
The only thing missing was bowl scouts. Most of them figure Maryland could still finish 6-5, or worse. But Dick Dull, Maryland's director of athletics, said he thinks the team will receive a bid to a minor bowl if it finishes 7-4 and wins the ACC.
"The first thing we have to do is win the ACC championship," Dull said. "The second thing we need to do is beat Miami or Clemson."