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Terps facing the three phases of believe

October 05, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

This might be a loose example of reality imitating art.

Old-time movie buffs might remember a critically acclaimed flick called "The Three Faces of Eve." Joanne Woodward starred in a story of a young woman who had multiple personalities - one shy, one sexy and one normal.

Now, 47 years later, the University of Maryland looks to be making an athletic remake of the cinematic classic. It would be called "The Three Phases of Ralph."

As Terrapins fans well know, Ralph is played by Ralph Friedgen, the closest thing there has ever been to a savior for a floundering program. In three years, he has brought Terps football from ashes to one of the hottest things in college football.

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But this year's team is a project for Friedgen, thus the three phases. Maryland's season can be divided into three distinct sections, separated by the two Saturdays off on the schedule.

Phase One was the learning process. Phase Two is the proving process. And Phase Three will be selling process.

Phase One ended before this past weekend's open date. Maryland opened their schedule with Northern Illinois, Temple, West Virginia and Duke to signal the rebuilding of several key components of the team.

The Terps were breaking in new quarterback Joel Statham. They were rebuilding an offensive line, turning over the control of the running game to tailback Josh Allen and finding a go-to guy to compliment Steve Suter in the passing game.

On defense, it was a matter of restocking the defensive line and finding a consistent defensive backfield because of the graduation of six of their top seven backs.

The Terps finished 3-1 in the stretch, but resembled a 5-year-old riding a bike with training wheels. The confidence is shallow, the presentation was wobbly and the balance was uncertain. WVU, only because it was rated in the top 10, was the most difficult game, but could have been won if Maryland had the execution Friedgen prides his teams on.

This week starts Phase Two when Maryland must prove it is a Top 25 team and worthy of consideration for another premium bowl game. The games in this segment are home against Georgia Tech and North Carolina State and at Clemson, followed by two critical Top 10 games at home against Florida State and at Virginia.

These are Atlantic Coast Conference games, which will define Maryland's standing in the new conference and separate the contenders and pretenders.

The Terps have to show more efficiency, particularly on offense, and need Statham to prove he's the guy to lead Maryland to another New Year's Day bowl. Good showings against Florida State and Virginia - meaning wins - will define this season.

Then the Terps have another Saturday off before Phase Three begins with their final two games - at Virginia Tech on Nov. 18 in an ESPN Thursday night special and at home against Wake Forest.

In the pigeon-holed world that is now the postseason bowl schedule, one loss is the difference between the Gator and Peach bowls, the Peach and Tangerine bowls, and the Tangerine and Continental Tire bowls.

Maryland's journey has become much more difficult this year, thanks to the ACC. The addition of Miami and Virginia Tech - followed by Boston College next year - make it that much tougher for the Terps to finish consistently among the league's top three teams every year.

So, if Maryland can navigate through the Three Phases of Ralph, Friedgen might deserve a spot on the with the four heads on Mount Rushmore.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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