Oct. 17, 2002
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – In the first half, Chris Downs couldn’t take more than a step or two before running into a white jersey. After that, the 5-foot-8 running back zipped through holes that could have accomodated someone twice his size.
Downs ran for a career-high 212 yards and three touchdowns Thursday night as Maryland cruised to its fourth straight victory, 34-10 over Georgia Tech.
Held to 29 yards on seven carries in the first half, Downs ran for 109 yards and two scores in the third quarter as the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions turned a 6-3 lead into a 20-3 advantage.
“The offensive line came up huge in the second half. Thank God for them,” Downs said. “During the third quarter, I saw creases and holes open up. There were more cracks in their defense, and I got through them as quickly as possible.”
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said his staff made several adjustments in the blocking scheme at halftime, and Downs did the rest.
“I think our offensive line stepped up, and Chris Downs … well, what can I tell you? He had a phenomenal game,” Friedgen said.
After digging a huge hole for the Yellow Jackets in the third quarter, Downs buried them with 7:40 remaining, running 64 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown to make it 27-3.
Downs is playing in place of 2001 ACC offensive player of the year Bruce Perry, who has yet to suit up this season because of a torn groin. Before this year, Downs, a senior, had 14 yards on four carries.
Scooter Monroe had five catches for 105 yards for Maryland (5-2, 1-1), which needed to go to overtime to beat the Yellow Jackets last year.
“It was big, because it gets us in the win column in the league,” Friedgen said. “From here on out, we just need to take care of business each and every week. We’ll be in this thing in the end, if we can do that.”
Monroe is the first Terrapin with a 100-yard receiving game since Jason Hatala in 1997.
Georgia Tech safety Cory Collins (4) tackles Maryland running back Chris Downs (20) in the second quarter.
The Yellow Jackets, in their first season under coach Chan Gailey, endured their most lopsided loss since a 34-7 defeat against Florida State in 1998.
“The third quarter was obviously our undoing,” Gailey said. “I don’t really know what happened. I think we had guys in the right spots, but we just weren’t tackling.”
The Yellow Jackets were also without linebacker Keyaron Fox, who leads the team in tackles but sprained an ankle in the first half and did not return.
“He’s one of our best players. Obviously, that hurts,” Gailey said.
Georgia Tech also played the second half without running back Ajenavi Eziemefe, who sprained an ankle after gaining 16 yards on five carries. He’s been filling in for standout Tony Hollings, whose season ended with a knee injury on Sept. 21.
Limited to 33 yards rushing in the first half, the Terrapins amassed 54 yards on the ground – all by Downs – in their opening drive of the third quarter. Downs capped the 76-yard march with a 15-yard TD run.
After a Georgia Tech punt, Downs capped an 80-yard drive by scoring from the 1 to make it 20-3.
The Yellow Jackets trailed at halftime despite compiling more yards (241-140) and first downs (11-7). But six penalties and a turnover negated the edge.
Maryland then moved 55 yards in six plays before Nick Novak kicked a 35-yarder for a 3-0 lead.
The Yellow Jackets mounted a promising drive early in the second quarter, but Eziemefe lost a fumble at the Maryland 22, and the Terrapins put together a 68-yard march that resulted in a 27-yard field goal.
Suggs then took Georgia Tech to the Maryland 2 before Manget kicked a 19-yard field goal. Suggs was 4-of-5 for 41 yards on the march.