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Their second chance

November 03, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It was only a week ago when the University of Maryland football team was taking a long look at itself in the mirror.

After three consecutive losses, the Terps were trying to figure out if they were dead or alive with a chance to have a successful season. Maryland needed a sign.

It came on Saturday in a 20-17 upset of then-No. 5 Florida State. The Terps were waiting to exhale and used that breath to steam up that mirror.

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Terrapin World was a different place on Tuesday thanks to the victory, as there is a feeling that Maryland came back from the dead. But now Maryland has to get past the victory hangover and get busy to prepare to play No. 12 Virginia to make sure last Saturday's accomplishment doesn't become a last gasp.

"We've been very strong as a team the past two weeks," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said during his weekly media conference. "I'm very proud of our players, the way they've responded, hung in there and kept fighting. They could have quit, they could have hung it up. They could have seen what's ahead of them, said we'll write this season off and see you at spring practice.

"But they didn't do that. Now we've got another opportunity this week, and we're going to find out how much more character we have. Everything is still there; it's just a matter of how bad we want to get it."

Maryland suddenly has bowl fever again with a 4-4 record and three games remaining - two against Virginia and Virginia Tech, who are both challenging for the Atlantic Coast Conference title. The Terps need to win at least two those games to be bowl eligible while making full use of the significant win over Florida State.

"I think if we don't carry that over, then we've lost an opportunity that we really want to take advantage of," Friedgen said.

The idea of a second chance hasn't been lost on the Terps, who realize the Florida State win would become an afterthought if they lose to rival Virginia.

"The win did revitalize us," said linebacker William Kershaw, who intercepted a pass against the Seminoles. "It made us feel a lot better and it will boost us up a lot."

Maryland's defense had been steady for most of the season, but really starred against Florida State. The Terps held the Seminoles to 50 yards rushing and prevented them from hitting the big pass play to break the tightly played game open. The difference, though, may have been the intangible of confidence that Maryland gained during the victory.

"I think this is a good period for us," Kershaw said. "We have to keep progressing. It's going to be a very tough challenge this week. We know they don't like us and we don't like them, but we have to blot that out. (Last week) was a very big win for us. We know that if we can beat Florida State, we can beat anyone."

Still, that feeling is a precarious thing.

The first thing Maryland has to do is prove it knows how to use its newly acquired confidence.

"I told the team on Saturday that this was the start, not the finish to the season," Friedgen said. "I hope this allows them to play with the confidence and the freedom to go out and make plays."

The victory also brought back a lot of fans who had given up on the Terps during the losing streak. There was a better feeling about Maryland's future around campus after the win.

"I really want to commend our students and our fans on how they handled themselves after the win," Friedgen said. "They didn't go out and do anything to embarrass themselves. I think they are getting used to big wins between us and the basketball team."

All the good feelings and good tidings - and maybe the coveted second chance - could go by the wayside with a bad outing at Virginia.

"I'm happy for the team. It's good for them to feel this," Friedgen said. "They have to appreciate that they are back on top instead of back in the battle. That's the constant battle of college football. But they need to know they are one loss away from being back where they were."

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