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Terps hopeful for 'Pack

November 21, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Ralph Friedgen would never be confused with a Maryland cheerleader, but he knows how to shake a pom-pom successfully.

Maryland's football coach has become a master at motivating the Terrapins to do things most critics have thought impossible. Now, Friedgen is branching out.

Friedgen isn't bashful about admitting he is pulling for North Carolina State to win this week. The Wolfpack faces Florida State on Saturday in what has become Maryland's final hope for a chance to win a share of its second consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

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If N.C. State wins, Maryland just has to win its final two games - against Virginia this week and Wake Forest next - to retain a piece of the title. If the Wolfpack loses, Maryland still has to win both games to finish second.

Oh yeah, there is one more problem. N.C. State is struggling. The Wolfpack is on a three-game losing streak - including a 24-21 loss to Maryland two weeks ago - after starting out with nine straight wins.

"I feel for North Carolina State," Friedgen said. "I always say it's a short walk (between success and failure). If they want to salvage their season, they have to pull together and beat Florida State. It helps us, but it helps them for their recruiting and to get ready for a bowl. They could still end up with 10 wins, and that's special."

The sentiment is nice, but Friedgen was honest enough to admit that he needs N.C. State to come through for the Terps to even have a chance to repeat. Maryland lost the chance to control its own destiny in the third week of the season when it lost 37-10 to the Seminoles. The Terrapins haven't lost since, but it left them in a hole nonetheless.

"This is a big game this week," Friedgen said. "If we can win this week, any time you win 10 games in college football, it is a big season. And against Virginia, they are our closest rival which is in the same conference, we need to be ready to play."

But there is a spiritual link to the Wolfpack, especially since their diligence can only help further the Maryland program and cause.

"I'd like to end up in a (Bowl Championship Series) bowl," Friedgen admitted, especially after the Terps experienced playing in the Orange Bowl last season. "After being to one of those, they're a little different than those other ones.

"North Carolina State? My prayers are with them ... that's about all I can do."

The coming chain of events is something the Maryland players have approached, but realize they can't do anything about it. The Terps can only control what they do on the field.

"We don't worry about the national implications or about the recognition (coming off the Virginia game.) We aren't worried about that," Maryland receiver Jafar Williams said. "We have to win. If we worry about the next two games, it will all take care of itself. Our fate lies in N.C. State's hands."

Friedgen agrees, but N.C. State's fortunes will remain on his mind, at least until Saturday. After that, the Wolfpack is on its own and Maryland's coach doesn't plan on keeping an eye on their progress via the scoreboard.

"Have you seen me two hours before a game?" Friedgen said. "By then, I have only one thing on my mind. There could be a report that the world is going to end and I'm only worried about winning the game. I'm pretty focused. They can tell me about how things stand after the game."

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