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Maryland football - Time to win

August 17, 2000

Maryland football - Time to win



By DAN SPEARS / Staff Writer


COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Maryland football coach Ron Vanderlinden sees his team in a third-down situation. He can only hope the Terrapins respond a little bit better than they did in 1999.

"What we need to do now is break through and have that winning season," the fourth-year head coach said Thursday at Maryland Media Day at Byrd Stadium. "That's the next step for the Maryland football program. And we feel really good about our chances right now."

The Terps come off a 5-6 season - their second straight improvement under Vanderlinden - but twice watched their chances at the program's first bowl game in a decade slip through their grasp.

Last-minute losses to Duke and Virginia at home were punctuated by failed chances on third down offensively and defensively and ruined the two best days of running back LaMont Jordan's career. Maryland finished last in the ACC in third-down conversion on offense (28.4 percent) and defense (holding only 57.8 percent of the time).

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"That's the focal point of our emphasis," Vanderlinden said. "We have to do a better job defensively on third down. I think we've tweaked our package and we're really going to emphasize that. And part of that has got to come from the defensive front."

The Terps will have to do it from a restructured front line anchored by eight-game starter Kris Jenkins. The linebacking corps and secondary combine to return six more starters and hope to stop the big plays that plagued them last season.

Offensively, there are questions as well, all of them partially answered:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Jordan, Maryland's first true Heisman candidate since Boomer Esiason in 1983, is still in eligibility limbo because of summer school for the second straight season.

Jordan hasn't practiced with the team yet, but when asked how he felt physically, he said, "If you want to see what kind of condition I'm in, come check out the Temple game on September 9 (the season opener)."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Sophomore Calvin McCall started nine games last season, but only shares the top of the depth chart with junior-college transfer Shaun Hill. Latrez Harrison, who started the final two games of 1999 after McCall was injured, is also in the mix.

"We'll always be good in the run game," Vanderlinden said. "But I think we'll make tremendous gains passing."

Maryland has made tremendous gains already under Vanderlinden, who's gone 2-9, 3-8 and 5-6 in his first three seasons. Now, though, his team faces third-and-short. The difference between 5-6 and no bowl bid and 6-5 and a spot in the postseason - one game.

"Yeah, I feel the pressure. It's a competitive thing, and you relive everything that you've done," Vanderlinden said. "I think (the players) feel it, too. And yes, I think this team is on a mission.

"At the minimum (we need) a winning record. I think it's time for us to win now."

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