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Terrapins have worked themselves into a Quan-dry

October 29, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Football used to be a game for the University of Maryland. But somewhere along the way, it all changed.

Now, playing on Saturdays has become too much like work.

The Terrapins have the feeling that comes with punching a clock before entering Byrd Stadium as the season has worn on. It seems like games don't feel like, well, games anymore.

"When I watch teams like North Carolina and Clemson play, their guys are running around out there all excited," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "They look like they are having fun. We look like its work when we are out there. We have to get the Quan. We've looked solid in practice ... that's not the problem ... It's been how we've looked in games."

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The "Quan" was the term Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character used in the movie "Jerry Maguire" pertaining to the best of everything in football - the focus, the recognition, the most exposure, and in his case, the best contract.

For Maryland, the Quan would be the ability to shake an uptight, almost scared attitude while playing. The Terps act like they are trying to play the perfect game, which hampers the ability to play a good one.

"We have to take what we practice over to the field when we play," Maryland center Kyle Schmitt said. "At practice, there is no crowd and when we make a mistake, we run the play over again. We have to be able to transfer that over to the game. It's important to have fun again. There are a lot of guys out there who are playing tight. We can't worry about making mistakes and can't be looking over our shoulders."

A prime example of tight play came in last week's loss to Georgia Tech. Maryland lost 7-3 in a game which would only turn the thumb screws on a team that was worried about being perfect.

"You can't practice or go into a game looking at it as work," Maryland linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "You have to have fun and go at it 100 percent all the time. That has been missing at first, but I think its coming back."

The Terps have an experience in their favor, but past successes as a deterrent this season. Maryland has seniors in most of the impact positions, but has wilted some under the expectations that are a product of Friedgen's first two successful years on the job.

Friedgen had a team meeting with the seniors to talk about the season and what's still ahead for the Terps. The subject of leadership was addressed.

"I told them that we can still play better as a team," Friedgen said. "I told them they still have control of their future."

Now that the ACC title and a BCS bowl berth are out of the question, Maryland has to focus on the final four games to earn the best possible bowl invitation.

A second-place finish in the ACC could still mean a trip to the Peach or Gator Bowl, but the Terps have a lot of business to take care of yet. Maryland is in sixth place in the ACC, one-half game behind a four-way tie for second between North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia.

The Terps close the season at home with North Carolina on Saturday, followed by a final home game with Virginia before two road games at N.C. State and Wake Forest. Maryland has already beaten Clemson, but lost to Georgia Tech.

"This is going to be the toughest period for us since I've been here," Friedgen said. "We are going into the toughest part of the schedule. To me, it's not important how we win as long as we win. I would have been perfectly happy if we had beat Georgia Tech, 3-0. We have to look hard at what we have to do as coaches and as players."

Friedgen admitted his not a fan of losing, but defeat - and handling it - is a huge part of winning. All he can do is hope the Terps understand that.

"All we can do is just keep working ... that's all I know how to do," Friedgen said. "I hope the kids will able to see their mistakes and fix them. I'm going to sit back and watch the next four games and just let them go out and have fun."

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