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Terps put the fun back into football

November 03, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - All work and no play had made the University of Maryland football team a dull one.

For two months, the pressure of a season of high expectations hung around the necks of the Terps like an overweight albatross. The quest for perfection made Maryland imperfect.

On Saturday, the Terps pushed work to the side and took a vacation. Everything seemed like fun in the sun at Homecoming as Maryland went on a weekend getaway with a 59-21 victory over North Carolina.

"I thanked the kids after the game because I was worried I wasn't reaching them," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "They needed something like this to help them get their confidence. I told them last night that I just wanted them to play with their hearts and pride - and do it for 60 minutes and have fun. I said, 'Let's not play the game like we have a 100-pound weight on their shoulders.'"

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Fun was a foreign emotion for the Terrapins.

Maryland had become a team which was feeling the focus of the microscope. Great things were expected from the Terps because of the large contingent of returning starters from last year's Peach Bowl championship team.

But instead of shouldering the load, the Terps spent more time looking over their shoulders. If it wasn't perfect, Maryland's players were getting the feeling it failed. The approach was a continuing worry for Friedgen, who wanted results to become more important than the quest for perfection.

He finally got it on Saturday.

"I thought our offense played very, very well," Friedgen said. "I think they went out and played the way they are capable of playing."

A record 39-point second quarter will attest to that. But if Friedgen needed any specifics, he didn't have to look any further than behind center.

Quarterback Scott McBrien had a career game, hitting 15 of 25 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns. He ran for another 24 yards and two more scores. It all came 10 days after one of McBrien's worst performances in a 7-3 loss to Georgia Tech, where he left the game in the second quarter with a concussion.

"I felt like I didn't have anything to lose," McBrien said. "That's how I approached the game today.

"I wasn't uptight and I was just going out there and throwing the ball without worrying if it was going to be caught, dropped or intercepted."

Maryland achieved an offensive flow that it hasn't seen in awhile. The defense started slowly before hitting stride to shut down the Tar Heels for the last 39 1/2 minutes, while the offense scored the final 45 points of the game.

"This is what we've been shooting for all year and finally got everything rolling on all cylinders," receiver Steve Suter said. "Everything was clicking and that's what we can do when we play well. The defense was getting turnovers and we were able to capitalize on them. Anytime we come out and put up that much offense, teams are going to have to take notice."

Maryland's defense took notice, especially after feeling let down against Tech when it held the Yellow Jackets to one touchdown and lost.

"It was pivotal that they scored points," said defensive back Domonique Foxworth, who had a key interception in the second quarter. "The defense did our part, but (the offense) did more."

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