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Burden of proof is on Terrapins

October 07, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Records are nothing more than a count of how a team finishes on the scoreboard.

Have the most points, it's a win. Have the least ... that's a loss.

So far, the University of Maryland football team has three mosts and one least to its credit. That's good enough for a winning record and a No. 23 ranking in the Associated Press poll.

In the critical eyes of college football, wins are essential but don't mean anything without one important element - proof. On Saturday, Maryland will be looking for more than just a win over Georgia Tech. The Terrapins desperately need a "Proof of Victory" to show their legitimacy.

"Proof is a big word for us," Maryland defensive end Shawne Merriman said. "We are not getting a lot of respect for being a good team. Respect comes from winning."

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But certain wins only provide so much weight.

The Terrapins have won three of their first four games, but have defeated Northern Illinois, Temple and Duke, three teams that would go hungry on the Beano Cook food chain. The one loss was to West Virginia, which was in the Top 10 and could have been an early validation to the youthful Terps.

Maryland turned the ball over five times and still lost in overtime. The Terps have been getting overlooked because of the loss, but might not have received total credit if they had won in a mistake-marred game.

"A win is a win at the end of the day, but you want to win convincingly so that people notice you," Merriman said.

During their off week last week, Maryland took steps to get the full measure of any wins to come. There was time to rest and to heal battle wounds. But most of all, there was time to work some bugs out of aspects of the game that have been holding the Terrapins back.

"The week off helped a lot," Maryland running back Josh Allen said. "It was relaxing. We got the chance to look at ourselves on film to look at our positioning and at being focused. A lot of guys have to work on being focused and being up for games."

About half of Maryland's roster is dotted with first-year players who are learning via the on-the-job training program. Many are playing the college game for the first time and trying to get knowledge while playing. The lack of focus and inexperience showed at WVU.

The lack of "focus" on the task at hand is critical to the Terps' success, according to Allen. The five turnovers against WVU was a testament to the lack of focus.

"We can't be turning the ball over," Allen said. "We have to control the ball. If we can't do that, we can't move the ball and score. Teams have been going with the same tendencies they always have this year, so it's pretty much the same - pad-on-pad football."

So that's what makes Saturday's game with Georgia Tech so critical for Maryland. On the surface, the Terps will be playing a team which might be better than its 2-2 record. The Yellow Jackets won at Clemson but have taken consecutive losses to North Carolina and Miami.

Maryland has to come off its bye week in convincing fashion if it plans to be a player in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the national scene.

"We really have to jell and come together as a team. We need to get that focus and fight," Allen said. "It's time for us to realize our potential. This game is very critical. We are in the ACC the rest of the year. We have to keep up the momentum week in and week out."

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