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Terrapins moving on after opening loss

September 04, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Everyone loves a winner.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen knows what it feels like. After all, he and the Terrapins were on top of the world in 2001 and entered the 2002 season as everyone's darlings.

But now, in the span of four days, things changed a little - especially after a humbling 22-0 loss to Notre Dame at the Kickoff Classic on Saturday.

"I told them a lot of people will jump off the bandwagon right now," Friedgen said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. "That's human nature."

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Right now, Maryland is realizing how the other half lives. After the first game of the season, 50 percent of the teams are undefeated and 50 percent of the teams are winless. Suddenly, the honeymoon isn't over, but it has been interrupted a little.

"I'm really irritated about (losing to Notre Dame), but we can't do anything about it now," Friedgen said. "We just have to make sure it doesn't happen again. I'm 0-1 right now and I don't like it. The next game is where we have to get things right."

That next game is the University of Akron, a member of the suddenly pesky Mid-American Conference. Two MAC teams - Miami (Ohio) and Northern Illinois - beat two Atlantic Coast Conference teams - North Carolina and Wake Forest - in the opening week.

The Zips could be the unfortunate victims as Maryland makes up for falling out of the Top 25 polls for the first time in more than a year after losing in front of a national television audience.

Or, they can create more elbow room on the bandwagon. Of course, that's entirely up to the Terrapins.

"I was disappointed in the way we played, but not disappointed in the effort," Friedgen said. "They did not play the way they were capable of playing."

Maryland managed just 133 yards of offense without two of the 2001 stalwarts - quarterback Shaun Hill, who graduated, and tailback Bruce Perry, who is out with a torn groin muscle. There were just eight first downs and 16 yards rushing to speak of, too.

Meanwhile, Maryland's defense slowed - but couldn't stop - the Fighting Irish's new West Coast offense, nor could it get the big play needed to change momentum.

"Defensively, we gave a great effort. There wasn't much they could do," safety Dennard Wilson said. "They got five field goals off of us, but they add up. They were just better than us on that night. It's over with now. I don't dwell on it. That game was a tough game, but I think we'll bounce back."

That means Maryland must find a way to overcome inexperienced play in the backfield in order to move the ball, while the defense is forced to cope with the thin ranks of the secondary against the pass-happy Zips.

"If we don't learn from these mistakes, then it is a tragedy," Friedgen said. "What we have to do is understand what we did wrong and grow from this experience. Then we will be a better team. I'm still very proud of this football team. We'll get better, I promise you that."

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