SYRACUSE, N.Y., SEPT. 5 -- Maryland was feeling pretty good about itself going into this football season. However, the smiles evaporated tonight in the humidity of the Carrier Dome as Syracuse jumped on the Terrapins early, made them look confused the rest of the way and won easily, 25-11, before 35,234 spectators.
For Coach Joe Krivak, it was a frustrating way to start his collegiate head coaching career. A 1957 Syracuse graduate and a former assistant coach with the Orangemen, it was not a pleasant homecoming.
The two areas of most concern in preseason were the offensive and defensive backfields. Those questions still remain.
Maryland gained only 18 yards rushing on 17 carries in the first half, though the offensive line probably deserves at least as much blame as the running backs.
The inexperienced secondary -- after being burned on a first-play halfback option -- had a harrowing first half and was lucky Syracuse's 22-0 halftime lead wasn't greater.
The Maryland passing attack, thought to be a strength, looked out of sync from the start. Senior quarterback Dan Henning missed on some passes he might normally hit, but he also had a few dropped. He was also rushed heavily on several occasions.
Maryland didn't score a touchdown until there were 28 seconds left in the game. That's when Henning threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Joines to trim the Syracuse lead to 25-9. Henning then threw to Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof for the two point conversion, cutting the Syracuse lead to 25-11.
With 6:44 left, Syracuse's Tim Vesling's fourth field goal of the game, a 38-yarder, made it 25-3.
Down by 22 points at the half, Maryland scored on its first possession of the third quarter, but probably wished it could have come away with more points. With help from a roughing-the-punter penalty, Maryland had a first down at the Syracuse 16, but fizzled.
Safety Markus Paul separated tight end Ferrell Edmunds from the ball in the end zone, fullback Dennis Spinelli lost a yard, and, after an illegal procedure penalty, Henning fell pulling away from center.
Dan Plocki came on and kicked a 43-yard field goal to cut the Syracuse lead to 22-3 with 7:01 left in the third quarter.
Maryland cornerback Mike Hollis intercepted Syracuse's Don McPherson two plays later, giving the Terrapins the ball at the Syracuse 28.
But on the first play, Henning was sacked for a loss of nine yards by linebacker David Bavaro (brother of New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro). Plocki tried a 45-yard field goal but pulled it left with 5:44 remaining in the third period.
In the first half, it was difficult to say which aspect of the Maryland team was having the most trouble -- the secondary or the offense as a whole.
The secondary had been known to be questionable, but the offense was expected to be potent.
But by the end of the half Maryland had just 119 yards in total offense.
The Orangemen, knowing that the Maryland secondary is inexperienced, crossed up the Terrapins on the first play from scrimmage.
Halfback Robert Drummond swept right, pulled up and threw a deep pass to wideout Tommy Kane.
Kane had run by cornerback Irvin Smith, who had started to come up to stop Drummond. The Maryland secondary recovered enough to stop Kane at the Maryland 19.
The Terrapins held -- with help from an overthrown pass of a wide open receiver in the end zone on third down -- and Vesling kicked a 32-yard field goal for a 3-0 Syracuse lead with 13:04 left in the first quarter.
The Terrapins didn't exactly respond well to the Orange surprise. After gaining three yards on their first two plays from scrimmage, Maryland gave the ball away.
Henning tried to hand the ball to Spinelli, who appeared to think the play called for a fake. Syracuse defensive tackle Paul Frase recovered at the Maryland 17.
The Orangemen again got close, but again the Maryland defense didn't break. On fourth down from the 9-yard line, Syracuse was called for delay of the game, so Vesling came on to kick a 31-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead with 10:26 left in the first quarter.
Maryland's offense was better on the next series, though only enough to let punter Darryl Wright get into the game after three plays -- two of which were sacks of Henning. And Wright had to come up to make the tackle on the punt return by Kane, who got to the Maryland 41-yard line.
The Orangemen, with help from a key third-down, 14-yard completion, moved downfield and scored on a one-yard run over right tackle by Drummond.
Syracuse went for two points, but McPherson was tackled short of the end zone on a rollout to the right, leaving his team with a 12-0 lead with 4:36 left in the first quarter.
The experienced Maryland offense was looking like it was very young. On its next possession, a delay of game penalty forced Maryland into third and 12 at its 18.
Henning hit Bren Lowery on the next play for 11 yards, but the Terrapins were still short of the first down, so on came Wright.
McPherson and Syracuse then continued to shred the Maryland secondary. Kane caught a pass for 12 yards on first down and then Deval Glover burned cornerback Hollis and free safety Chad Sydnor deep. Glover was 15 yards ahead of the pair and would have scored if he hadn't fallen making the 43-yard reception.
But again, the Terrapins found a way to stop Syracuse from scoring six points. On third-and-two from the 11, McPherson was hit as he tried to throw to tight end Pat Kelly, who was wide open in the end zone.
Vesling then kicked a 27-yard field goal for a 15-0 lead with 14:49 left in the first half.
On its next drive -- with 13:44 left in the first half -- the supposedly potent Maryland offense got its first first down.
The drive had started at the 10-yard line following a bobbled kickoff return by Arnold Walker.
On the seventh play of the drive, Spinelli carried three yards to the Syracuse 48.
It was one of only two times Maryland reached Syracuse territory in the first half, and the second one came on a half-ending desperation completion to Abdur-Ra'oof.
Syracuse had the ball at the Maryland 30 after John Bonato fumbled a punt, but two plays later, J.B. Brown intercepted for Maryland.
Following a three-play Maryland drive that lost five yards, Syracuse took over on its 46.
On the second play, McPherson hit Kane on a 44-yard post pattern. Hollis was behind Kane, but didn't get help from the middle, where Sydnor had been caught upfield. Three plays later, McPherson sneaked over for a 22-0 lead.
The game was quite different from the last time the two teams met. In the 1985 Cherry Bowl, Maryland enjoyed and easy, 35-18, win at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.