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Terps kick off ACC stretch run with Clemson

October 01, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The auditioning is over. Now it's showtime.

For the University of Maryland football team, that means the first five games of the season were appetizers. Now it will be getting into the meat and main course of the 2003 season.

Saturday begins the Terrapins' extended tour of the Atlantic Coast Conference, beginning with a 3:30 p.m. televised home game with Clemson. It means more than just finding out how Maryland will stand this season.

It has the Terps' attention.

"You get that big-game feel," Maryland linebacker Leroy Ambush said. "That's motivation ... to start the ACC season at home. I just feels like the preseason is over. The season starts all over again with the ACC. We just have to go out an perform."

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That has to leave the average fan wondering just what the Terps have to offer. Maryland went 3-2 through the first five games, including a 3-1 mark in independent games. Maryland was 1-2 on the road and struggled to score in 10 of the 12 quarters away from Byrd Stadium.

Case in point came last Saturday as Maryland struggled to a 16-10 halftime lead over Eastern Michigan before taking over the second half to pull away for a 37-13 victory. It was the second Mid-American Conference team that troubled the Terps, who lost to Northern Illinois in the season opener.

The question is "Is that the real Maryland team or do the Terps tend to play to the level of the competition they are facing?"

"It's kind of discouraging because we seem to have trouble against lesser opponents like Eastern Michigan than we do against teams in the ACC," offensive guard C.J. Brooks said. "With the ACC coming up, it's bigger. It's very nerve-wracking. This is one of the games that will let us know where we are. (Clemson) is the best opponent we have played since Florida State (a 35-10 loss)."

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has been trying to make sure the Terps are equally prepared for every opponent, no matter who it may be, but to varied success. But even with his careful coaching approach, Friedgen reluctantly admits that Saturday's Clemson game is the dawning of a new season of main event games.

"This is it," Friedgen said Tuesday at his weekly media conference. "Now we are into league play and we have seven games to determine our fate. (Clemson) is a good team and we have beaten them the last couple of times. They will be hungry to beat us."

Maryland will be facing a different type of team this week, one vastly different than the games against Eastern Michigan and The Citadel. Clemson features speed, size and an active defense which is able to run and get to the football, much like Florida State.

It all means it's showtime in the ACC for Maryland ... and it's time for the Terps to show up for good.

"This is what we have primed ourselves for and we are excited it's finally here," defensive back Domonique Foxworth said. "We have been winning here and there are some positives and negatives for doing so well. It's positive to win, but it's negative because we have some teams upset with us. Clemson and North Carolina State probably have circled their games with us on the schedule."

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