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Maryland hopes to grow from loss to WVU

September 22, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland football team turned the page on its loss to No. 6 West Virginia, but the Terrapins left it bookmarked.

No matter where the Terps go from here, what happened in last Saturday's 19-16 loss in Morgantown, W.Va., will probably have a large bearing on Maryland's fate.

"I thought we played extremely hard as a team. We made some errors but I was proud of the way our kids hung in there and kept fighting," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen Tuesday during his weekly press conference. "There are things that the only way you can experience them is to be in that environment and deal with it. As I told my team last night, we should be better for that experience, but if not, then the loss was in vain. To me, we'll need to grow from it."


Maryland, now ranked No. 23, turned the ball over five times, including four in the first half, and still managed to push the Mountaineers into overtime. The Terps overcame three first-half interceptions thrown by quarterback Joel Statham - one leading to WVU's only touchdown - only to lose on Rasheed Marshall's 7-yard pass to Chris Henry in overtime.

After the game, Friedgen was adamant that the loss, before a huge sellout crowd on the road at Mountaineer Field, would be the defining moment for the Terps.

"I'm not upset with our team," Friedgen said in his post-game remarks. "The turnovers hurt us, but the effort, we have some guys out there who are fighters. We'll get better from this experience, I promise you."

Friedgen started taking steps to fulfill his promise this week as the Terps prepare to open the Atlantic Coast Conference season at Duke on Saturday. First, Friedgen got some perspective from the loss and then he started implementing some rules and groundwork to get that needed improvement.

First and foremost, Maryland has to find a way to keep the ball.

"I'll feel better if we stop turning the ball over. We can't keep doing that and win," Friedgen said. "The one thing I'm always stressing is playing without errors. We turned the ball over on their 19, 30, 15, 47 and our 7. We gave them a score and took points away from us ... it was like a 13-point swing. Then you talk about possession time. With all that, and they only outgained us by 50 yards. I have to stop talking about that. I have to keep thinking about Duke."

The first of Statham's three interceptions was returned to the Maryland 7 and resulted in Kay-Jay Harris' run for WVU's lone touchdown. But maybe more painful were the two other interceptions that came deep in Mountaineers territory and ended possible scoring drives - at least field goal attempts by Nick Novak.

In the long run, West Virginia had a 352-295 advantage in total yardage and a 32:42-27:18 edge in time of possession.

Friedgen defended Statham's interceptions, claiming one was a gift against blown coverage by WVU, the second an ill-advised throw on a misrun play and the third coming when the quarterback was hit on his release. Still, Statham has four interceptions and the Terps have had nine turnovers in their first three games.

Friedgen's first step in helping Statham improve was to keep him out of sight.

"I'm taking Joel off the circuit from talking just to kind of help him through this period," Friedgen said. "This is a growing period, a learning period. Right now, I don't think he needs to be distracted. If there are any questions, give them to me, I'll handle that. I hope you understand that we are trying to get him ready to play the rest of the season.

"I did the same thing with Scott McBrien. (Statham) had three turnovers in the first half and yet he came back and gave us a chance to win the game. I enjoyed his perseverance. Right now he has to focus on getting better and not worry about anything else but that."

Maybe the hardest adjustment for Friedgen is remembering that half of his roster is underclassmen and that they don't have the experience of the 2003 team which defeated West Virginia twice, the second time in the Gator Bowl.

"I think I'm trying to be patient," Friedgen said. "Sometimes I lose it and then, every time I make a statement, I go back and look at it and I see the effort and all the enthusiasm."

The most important part of Maryland's season starts Saturday at Duke. It marks the start of the ACC season and is the first step in determining Maryland's lot this season.

"There is a lot of pressure on the younger guys," Maryland linebacker William Kershaw said. "We want to get to 10 wins, so this will get us going. The first couple of games are nonconference but when you get in the conference each game really matters. One loss and you might be out of the race."

Maryland will be moving on to the next chapter in their season, but the Terps will definitely cheat back to draw any knowledge they can from the loss to WVU.

"They all know I don't take losing very well, but I told them I was proud of the way they played," Friedgen said. "As long as they play hard like that ... if we lose the game, we lose the game. We'll move on and get better. Can we play better? Yeah. Can we play harder? I don't think so. We were in a street fight in a foreign land and we have to be better from it."

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