FROSTBURG, MD. -- On a campus nestled in a bucolic setting in one of the many valleys of the Allegheny range, the Frostburg State football team lies in wait, ready to pounce on any opponent filled with the self-deception that it can actually challenge what can be fairly termed an offensive juggernaut.
It is nearly mid-autumn in western Maryland and the leaves are changing into proud hues of fiery red and orange. What has not changed is the Bobcats' success: 7-0 this season, good for a No. 3 ranking among NCAA Division III schools in the South region.
"Everyone here has made a real commitment to the program, from the president on down," Coach Dennis Riccio said. "And we've recruited the state of Maryland very well, due to the attractiveness of the campus and the program."
Foes may arrive in this small town just west of Cumberland somewhat awed by the scenery, before they stumble home even more awed by a team that has outscored opponents by 251-28 this season, an average of 36-4 each Saturday.
The veteran offense, which has outgained opponents by an average of 407-178 yards, has played the largest part in Frostburg's ascension the past two years. Last season, the Bobcats were 9-1.
"Practically everybody starting are juniors and seniors," said junior fullback Rory McTigue, who prepped at Good Counsel in Wheaton. "Plus, we lost only six players from last year."
Frostburg's strength is its deliberate, ball-control offense that has averaged 339 rushing yards a game, compared with 67 for opponents. McTigue scored three touchdowns Oct. 13 in a 31-7 win over St. Francis, then three more Saturday in a 49-7 homecoming victory over Bridgewater (Va.), and leads the team with 671 yards and 14 touchdowns.
McTigue became a record-breaker with those 14 touchdowns, after scoring 13 last season to equal the school record set by Rich Prather in 1981 and duplicated in 1982.
Catholic University Coach Rick Novak remembers the Bobcats' running game, which overwhelmed the Cardinals, 41-0, Oct. 6 at CU. "Their line is the best I've seen in Division III," Novak said. "They fire out quickly and have tremendous ability to stay low. We had a tough time slowing them down from beginning to end."
Frostburg's passing game, overlooked because it averages only 68 yards per game, nonetheless has potential. The star receiver is a guy nicknamed "Orkie."
"It's a name my sister gave me," said wideout Norman Summers, from High Point High School. "I was a chubby youngster and she called me 'Porkie.' That became 'Orkie' and I've been called it ever since."
Defensive backs may get a chuckle out of the idea of defending against a guy named "Orkie," but it is Summers who is wont to have the last laugh. He has caught only five balls all year, but those have gone for a stunning average of 29.8 yards. Two have been for scores.
"I came to Frostburg as a quarterback," Summers said. "There was a lot of depth at the position, so I moved to receiver. Back then, we had no set offense."
Summers insists he does not get frustrated with his limited activity in the offense.
"We're a team here," he said. "Besides, we're working on our short passes as we head toward the playoffs."
The defense, No. 1 in the country among Division III schools in 1989, remains strong, having forced 29 turnovers to opponents' 15. Keith Shorter's seven interceptions tied the school season record set by John Gray in 1982.
Defensive coordinator Mike Ricketts was an all-American linebacker for Riccio when Riccio was defensive coordinator at Augustana (Ill.) College for eight years.
Riccio, in his fourth year at Frostburg, went beyond a mere playoff appearance in setting team goals this season. The Bobcats are aiming for a 10-0 season and a national title. Riccio is used to winning: Under him, Augustana won four straight Division III national championships (1983-86) and enjoyed a 50-game unbeaten streak.
It was a struggle at first for Riccio with the Bobcats, who went 2-8, then 4-6. Then the recruiting success kicked in.
"Dennis's staff visits every school in the state," Athletic Director Loyal Park said. "They're a very organized staff. In fact, and people don't believe this, but we spend less on the operational budget for football than during the year before Dennis arrived."
And football is far from the only success story at Frostburg. The men's soccer team is sixth in the region at 12-2-1 with 10 shutouts. The 12 wins, 10 of them in a row, are school records. The men's cross-country team is fourth in the South region, the women eighth.
But it is the football team that is monopolizing attention.
"Most teams, when they become filled with juniors and seniors, don't improve once they reach a high level," Riccio said. "What's unique about this team is that we see improvement from week to week."