Trojans try to pull off four straight wins

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Sports Editor

Troy State head football coach Larry Blakeney called Saturday’s homecoming game against Southern Utah "weird."

"I think we totally underestimated them," Blakeney said about the Thunderbirds. "It was homecoming and there was a lot going on here last week, but still, that’s no excuse."

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Although TSU eventually won the game, 20-17, the Thunderbirds kept it close throughout. Led by freshman quarterback Dustin Randolph’s 99-yard effort, Southern Utah rolled up 231 yards on the ground before the Trojans were able to gain possession of the ball in the final minutes and secure the victory.

"I think with him (Randolph), he had such a long ride with his fullback," Blakeney said of Randolph’s success, referring to the freshman’s ability to fake a hand-off to his fullback and hold it long enough to keep the Trojans’ front four guessing. Randolph would then pull the ball out and use his speed to cut upfield for some long runs.

"He’s (Randolph’s) got to be in a tub today," said Blakeney. "He carried the ball 30 times and we probably hit him maybe 50."

Randolph left the game after taking a hit from Ben Waldrop and Shelton Felton on the Thunderbirds’ last possession. His back-up Chuck Henderson was sacked two play’s later on fourth down by Jimmy McClain and Jose Gamboa.

"Even though it wasn’t what we were looking for, performance-wise, I told our guys to be glad they got the win," said Blakeney. "This game on Saturday was not one for the ages, but it was a win."

Riding a three-game win streak, the Trojans will look to take a fourth straight this weekend when they travel to face No. 15 Maryland in College Park. The Terps lost for the first time this season on Saturday against No. 18 Florida State, 52-31.

But even with the loss, it’s safe to say this is not the Maryland program of recent memory. Last year’s squad went 5-6. Maryland’s last winning season was a 6-5 effort in 1995.

However, new head coach Ralph Friedgen, himself a Maryland alumni, and the Terrapins won their first seven games of the season this year before Saturday’s loss to FSU. The Terps feature a balanced offense, ranked 10th nationally in rushing (228 ypg), 17th in total offense (440 ypg) and 19th in scoring (35.4 ppg). Tailback Bruce Perry has already topped the 1,000-yard mark and is averaging 127 yards per outing.

Friedgen, who was offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech last year, has effectively returned Maryland to the ranks of the winning and Blakeney has taken notice.

"They’ve had years where they’ve played good in spurts," he said. "I think the circumstances of Coach Friedgen returning, with him being a

former player and all, has reunited the Maryland family. I think he surprised some people early, but I don’t think they will now. They’re a solid football team."

Offensive coordinator John Shannon spent two seasons at Maryland in ’92 and ’93.

"That whole area up there around Washington D.C. is rich in Maryland followers," said Shannon. "Their facilities are top notch and everything is new within the last five years or so. There are more blue chip athletes in that area then some people think. We always had good players when I was there, but I think Ralph has finally got everyone working on the same page and they believe in his system."

Kickoff is at noon (CST) and the game can be seen on a pay-per-view basis.