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New season, same script

October 06, 2003|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It worked for them last year, so why not try it again this season.

The Maryland Terrapins' 2003 season is following the same path that the 2002 campaign took: Start the season slow, take a couple of losses, then get on a roll that takes you into a major bowl game.

The Terps have rattled off four straight victories after an 0-2 start, the latest a 21-7 victory over Clemson in front of a packed house at Byrd Stadium on Saturday.

The Clemson win was a little different than the previous three, however. Unlike the wins over outmatched opponents like The Citadel and Eastern Michigan, this was an Atlantic Coast Conference victory against a team that had also won three straight entering the game.

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"What can I say? It was a good win for us," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "It was a tough win against a good football team."

It was also a win on a day when the Terrapins' offense was out of sync. Nearly half of quarterback Scott McBrien's 204 passing yards came on touchdown strikes of 69 and 25 yards, and the Terrapins averaged just 3 yards per carry on the ground.

One part of the problem for the Terps was penalties. Maryland was flagged six times for 53 yards, and though there's really no good time to take a penalty, they seemed to come at the worst possible moments Saturday.

"It's tough to overcome a drive-stopping penalty," McBrien said. "At halftime, Coach said we needed to focus on stopping the penalties. We knew it was something we needed to do to win the game."

Friedgen said he has tried to figure out how to curb the flags, but he hasn't found the way yet.

"I've been coaching my butt off to try to stop penalties," Friedgen said. "Maybe I'll have to start running the coaches instead of the players to get the point across."

Friedgen is hopeful the offense will click once some of his injured players get healthy. Receiver Steve Suter was a pleasant surprise Saturday, catching three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown and scampering 24 yards for a first down on a reverse after speculation early in the week that he might miss the Clemson game and others because of a knee injury.

Suter said he had no pain in the knee on Saturday and will take a wait-and-see approach during practice this week, although he later contradicted that statement.

"I'm tired of missing games and practices. I just want to be out there," Suter said. "If I'm going to be in pain, I'll be in pain."

Even with the offensive struggles, the Terrapins improved to 1-1 in the ACC. Ugly or not, it was a win that players and coaches alike were happy to get under their belts.

"We're right where we want to be," McBrien said. "Things didn't go our way at the beginning of the season, but we're in the same position as last year. All of our goals are still right there in front of us."

"Right now, the way I look at it, it's in our hands," Friedgen said. "What we want to make of it is up to us. We have Duke next week. We have got to line up and be ready to play."

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