"Sunshine" Turner Shines Bright as Terps Win
Maryland's coaches constantly reminded Chris Turner during the week that he was a heartbeat away from being ‘The Guy.' To Turner, four weeks ago the forgotten third man in what everybody deemed a two-man race, it sounded crazy.
Saturday he had a little longer than a heartbeat—an entire halftime—to face the reality that seemed so improbable. He was The Guy, on the road against the No. 10-ranked team in the country, in charge of leading Maryland back from what looked like a certain collapse.
He did that and more. He wasn't merely a game manager—which was all he was asked to be – but rather, a game-changer. Led by the little-known, yet surprisingly poised sophomore, Maryland erased all of Rutgers' momentum and its three-point halftime advantage, cruising to an enormous 34-24 road victory.
"He just let everybody know, ‘I'm ready. Let's do this. We're not going to miss a beat,'" running back Keon Lattimore said of Turner, who entered the game after starter Jordan Steffy was knocked out with a mild concussion.
"When a guy that young steps up and says something like that and then he proves it, man, he gained a lot of respect from a lot of older guys," Lattimore said.
Turner hit 14-of-20 passes for 149 yards. He converted crucial third downs and gave his wide receivers opportunities to make plays, the most evident of which was his 27-yard hook-up with LaQuan Williams on a 3rd and 12 in the fourth quarter. The play clock was running down, so he couldn't adjust his protection. He saw Williams with one-on-one coverage, put the right amount of air under the ball, and the result was a highlight-reel, full-extension diving grab by Williams on the 2-yard line.
"LaQuan makes plays like that like it's nothing," Turner said. "He does that everyday in practice. I know no matter where I put the ball pretty much he's going to make a great play."
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, not wanting to be conservative, allowed Turner to throw in the second half. Turner executed almost flawlessly as Maryland racked up 251 yards of total offense in the half. His performance opened up the runnin game, too; Lattimore rushed for 124 yards, Lance Ball rushed for 90 and Da'Rel Scott, who Friedgen finally involved, added 29 yards.
"Maryland is a smash-mouth running team and that's what we did," Lattimore said. "We wore them out and when the fourth quarter came, I think it kind of showed."
Maryland had 458 yards of total offense, a season-high. Lost in that performance, though, was the defense's ability to put Rutgers' 69- and 78-yard momentum-turning drives at the end of the first half behind it.
If Rutgers' 77-yard scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter is taken out of the equation, Maryland held one of the nation's top attacks to just 37 yards in the second half. When Mack Frost sacked Mike Teel on a 3rd and 6 early in the fourth quarter, it was the first sack Rutgers' had allowed in six games. Jeremy Navarre added another on a 4th down later in the quarter, effectively killing any chance Rutgers had to come back.
The story of the night, though, was Turner. Nicknamed "Sunshine" for his blonde hair and West Coast roots, he's known as a laid-back jokester and someone who keeps the mood light. He didn't do much of that in the second half, but he showed a side not seen before by those outside of the huddle.
Especially Rutgers' coach Greg Schiano.
"I wish I would have seen this guy before today," he said. "He did an impressive job."
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