Week 2 of college football finds at least three area teams in position for their first victories this season. Maryland, after an opening-week loss to Penn State, will try to rebound today in a noon game against a Boston College team depleted to the point that a guy named Flutie could play running back.
Navy, following last week's loss to North Carolina, is favored to beat Division I-AA Delaware at soldout Delaware Stadium in Newark. And Virginia opens its season in Charlottesville tonight a heavy favorite to beat Virginia Military Institute, a team the Cavaliers haven't lost to in seven years.
Howard, meanwhile, makes another trip to New England, where the Bison will play Rhode Island.
In Foxboro, Mass., Maryland finds itself needing to win to keep alive any hopes of a national title. Boston College will have to play without its best offensive player, senior tailback Troy Stradford, who has averaged more than five yards per carry in his career. A pulled hamstring will put him on the sideline.
Eagles Coach Jack Bicknell said his team has so many backs injured that Darren Flutie may have to move over from his flanker position to "fill in" at tailback, just in case.
"Darren can do most of the things Troy can do as a receiver," Bicknell said. "I've known all week Troy was going to be out, so I'm not going to cry over it. With guys hurt, I just want to know, 'Who's left?' and 'How can we adapt our attack and stay effective?' "
Maryland Coach Bobby Ross said he doesn't believe Boston College will alter its offense very much, which is to say he thinks the Eagles' Shawn Halloran will be throwing the ball often. "From the film, that's the way I would think they'd approach it," Ross said earlier this week.
A lot of attention has been devoted to Halloran, the 6-foot-4 senior quarterback who replaced last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Doug Flutie. "Shawn struggled the first week," Bicknell said. "There were people in the town getting on him and the press was saying he isn't any Doug Flutie. He isn't Doug Flutie, but he's coming along."
Ross hopes he will be able to say the same thing about the Terrapins, who should have won last week, given the scoring opportunities they wasted. "With good field position, we've got to be a little bit better," Ross said.
Ross also knows, however, that quarterback Stan Gelbaugh and the offensive team are likely to see more defensive pressure than they faced last week against Penn State. That's because Mike Ruth, the Eagles' 250-pound nose guard, is a dominating player.
In Charlottesville, Virginia should rush right over VMI in Eddie Williamson's debut as the Keydets' head coach. The Cavaliers, who were ranked No. 20 after last year's victory over Purdue in the Peach Bowl, have outscored VMI, 110-23, over the last three years, including last season's 35-7 breeze in Lexington.
VMI can take heart, however, in Virginia's injury situation. The Cavaliers, who lost seven starters from their defense to graduation, are relying on their offense while first-year defensive starters gain experience. But a bizarre string of injuries to the offense in preseason practice has set them back considerably. Three projected starters are out: fullback Antonio Rice, flanker John Ford, and guard Mike Battle. In addition, all three quarterbacks missed practices with various ailments, including returning starter Don Majkowski, who was out for five days with a hip strain.
Without Rice, Ford and Battle, Coach George Welsh had called the Cavaliers "mediocre at best" earlier in the week. He revised that somewhat after their final workouts but remained dismayed by the unforseen injuries and lost time. "We've made some strides, but we're still a little behind," he said.
VMI (2-9 last season) is struggling with its own problems, primarily its perennial lack of depth and the transition to Williamson, who brought an entirely new and largely inexperienced staff with him.
In Newark, Navy's defense will be facing Delaware's wing-T offensive system, installed and coached by the master, Tubby Raymond.
"Anybody in high school or college who runs the wing-T and has a problem calls Tubby to find out what to do," Navy Coach Gary Tranquill said. "It's a quarterback-fullback oriented offense and both (Rich Gannon and Tony Tolbert) are very capable people. They execute well."
The USA cable network will televise the Maryland-Boston College game, but it will be blacked out locally and throughout the Atlantic Coast Conference region.