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Bad fortune leaves Terps shell shocked

October 27, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Things don't always go the way they were planned.

The University of Maryland football team is finding out when plans are panned, rational thoughts start becoming rationed.

While the Terrapins continue to paint a positive picture in what has become a devastating three-game losing streak, it doesn't stop them from wondering what in the name of Jerry Claiborne has gone wrong in the 2004 season.

"Every day, I'm trying to figure out if I'm doing something wrong," Maryland senior center Kyle Schmitt said Tuesday during Maryland's weekly media conference. "Am I not getting enough sleep? Or maybe I'm not eating enough?"

Insomnia and malnutrition have been the least of Maryland's problems since coming off its bye week three weeks ago. In a period when the Terps should have been trying to prove themselves worthy of a bowl bid, they have been bowled over and have all but become a strike mark on the postseason list after losing the last three games by a combined score of 43-17.

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The latest was a heartbreaking 10-7 loss to Clemson, a game in which the Terps led until the final 23 seconds.

"We worked very hard last week. We prepared hard and it didn't work out," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "I think it's harder (to come back) when you think you had a good opportunity to win the game and you don't come away with the win."

The three losses have had a common theme. The Terrapins' defense has been stifling, keeping Maryland in the game with a chance to win, but the offense has been unable to do its part.

"We feel like we have to pitch a shutout," said linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who earned ACC defensive lineman of the week honors for his 18 tackles in a losing cause against Clemson. "It seems like if we don't get the shutout, we don't get the win. We almost did it last week, but we let up at the end. We almost had that perfect game, but didn't do it."

Maryland started the season ranked No. 20 and picked to finish fifth in the ACC. The season of hope tarnished and has been replaced with issues of youth, maturity, injuries and the lack of intangibles which go a long way toward making a team a winner.

And because of it all Maryland fell to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It represents the latest a Terps' team has been under .500 and its worst start in the ACC in Friedgen's four-year tenure.

"But if we continue to prepare and work hard, sooner or later, it will work out," Friedgen said. "I don't know if it will be this week or the next week, but you can't just give in when things don't go your way. You have to keep fighting and working."

Maryland has its work cut out for it this week when No. 5 Florida State comes to Byrd Stadium on Saturday. It will be followed by trips to Virginia and Virginia Tech, which could seal the Terps' fate.

But just what happens from here is anyone's guess, although Maryland is preparing itself for the best.

"I think there is some soul searching going on right now ... I know I am," Schmitt said. "We've had good runs in the past. We worked hard all season for the last run. I know the odds are against us to win three out of (the last) four, but we've got a lot of pride in that locker room. There are a lot of guys willing to stick it out for another month."

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