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Four games left for Terps to get things right

October 31, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - What you see and what you get are often two different things.

The University of Maryland football team started the 2003 season with the grandest of expectations, especially since the Terps had a huge number of returnees from last year's Peach Bowl-winning team.

The school of thought became "If things go right, we could ..."

But so far, things haven't gone right and the options for filling in the rest of the sentence are becoming fewer.

The truth is intangible things, like luck and team chemistry, haven't lined up in Maryland's favor, which have gone a long way to leaving the Terps questioning themselves.

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"At the beginning of the season a team should have goals," Maryland linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "We aren't going to reach all of ours but we still have a chance to become bowl eligible."

That aim is a lot lower than it was in the beginning of the season. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen sees a team that could still be a big success on a lesser degree. Still he has to wonder what might have been.

"I'm not one to make excuses," Friedgen said. "But we've had more things happen to us than we have had in the past."

It all goes with becoming the hunted instead of the hunter.

During the Friedgen Years, success has seemed easy to the Terps. But this year there is an air of diversity. Maryland has been getting fewer big plays, dealt with nagging injuries and has not shown the confidence of Friedgen's first two teams.

Those teams won and finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the first two years. This one is presently sitting in sixth place in the conference standings and out of the Top 25.

And it's no one thing that has held the Terps down.

  • Injuries - Aches and pains have cropped up on the Terps and they have had problems overcoming them. The offensive line has been nicked for much of the year while tailback Bruce Perry, flanker Steve Suter and quarterback Scott McBrien have dealt with various strains and injuries to slow down their progress this season.

  • Frustration - Last week's loss to Georgia Tech might be a microcosm of what's been off with the Terps.

    "It frustrated us because the defense played its heart out and we couldn't do anything to help them," receiver Dan Melendez said. "We lost 7-3 and that's frustrating. When we are executing, we are hard to stop but then we lose focus, we make mistakes and it snowballs from there. It all goes downhill."

  • Synchronization - The combination of the first two elements have caused the Terps to stray off the same page.

    "Overall, It's the whole group ... it's not just one guy breaking down," said center Kyle Schmitt of the offensive line woes. "We just have to get back to work and get it corrected. It's little things."

  • Sitting ducks - Maryland has sneaked up on its opponents in the first two years under Friedgen. This year, everyone seems to be ready for them.

    "We've been getting everyone's best shot," Schmitt said. "We have to expect that. It's more of a case that we have to come out and get it done."



It all comes down to Maryland overcoming lapses to put together a good run in the last four games. It's still possible for the Terps to finish second in the ACC and get a quality bowl bid.

The Terps are taking it as a lesson they must learn.

"Life isn't going to be easy," Melendez said."We have to punch in and go to work everyday."

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