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Terps' winning streak faces test in N.C. State

November 06, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Usually, Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen doesn't dwell on just who the Terrapins are playing next on the schedule.

"I don't dwell on the future or the past," Friedgen said. "That's not going to help us on Saturday."

But on Tuesday, Friedgen had a varied - and very-ed - reaction to this Saturday's impending game with North Carolina State.

"This is a big game this week against a very, very good opponent that is very physical that plays very very good defense," Friedgen said during his weekly press conference. "They run the ball very well. We are going to have our hands full with N.C. State."

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The Wolfpack did a very good job of catching the second-year coach's attention. Facing an opponent of the Wolfpack's caliber is one thing, and that's even before you factor in the implications of the game.

The Terps are hosting a nationally televised game at noon against the team ranked No. 14 by the media and No. 13 by the coaches.

Meanwhile, Maryland would be considered No. 26 in the Associated Press Top 25, and is No. 25 in the ESPN poll.

"This might be our biggest game yet," Maryland linebacker E.J. Henderson said. "It might give us more national recognition and it might help to decide where we might go (to play for a bowl game)."

More importantly, it could decide the Atlantic Coast Conference champion. With four weeks remaining in the season, the Terps are defending the title, but are one game behind Florida State in the league standings. N.C. State is coming off a loss to Georgia Tech and are tied with the Terps in second place.

The loser of this game might be hard pressed to make a comeback for the title. The Wolfpack have the luxury of hosting Florida State on Nov. 23.

And in the background is N.C. State coming off that loss while carrying a long memory stemming back to last year's 23-19 home loss to Maryland, which came a week after the Wolfpack upset Florida State.

Then-quarterback Shaun Hill hit Guilian Gary on an 8-yard scoring pass with 41 seconds remaining in the game to pull out the win and allowed Maryland to end the Seminoles' stranglehold on the ACC title.

"They lost last week, but they remember last year," Friedgen said. "It doesn't matter. They will be fired up either way. I can't control that. We have to play who shows up."

Much of Friedgen's concern revolves around N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers, who has tormented the Terps in the past two seasons, and freshman tailback T.A. McLendon, who has rushed for 862 yards and 15 touchdowns.

"He's very good ... a big, strong back," Friedgen said. "N.C. State is very improved on the offensive line. They are big and strong. They are doing a good job with their run blocking and their pass protection."

No matter how it shakes out, it still becomes a "very" important game for the Terps.

"We hear through the grapevine that everyone wants us .... We're here," Friedgen said. "Win or lose, we have to play the remaining games on the schedule to have a chance to have a very good season.

"We have to keep winning. I want to win as many games as we can. I'm not going to put myself in a situation where it's all-or-nothing. I will do that someday, when we will be playing for the national championship."

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