Terrapins must put season in overdrive

November 09, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The marathon is turning into a dash for the finish.

Many a coach have compared a season to a long journey to an inevitable finish. Each game becomes a mile marker along the way.

For the University of Maryland football team, the first eight markers have been like stop-and-go traffic. Speed up and hit the brake. Speed up and hit the brake. It has become time to hit the passing lane.

The Terrapins are one of three Atlantic Coast Conference teams owning a 4-4 record this season. And with three games left, Maryland, North Carolina and North Carolina State must win two of those three games to become eligible to go to a bowl game. And if the situation needs any more intrigue, Virginia is 5-3 and needs to win one game against either Georgia Tech, No. 8 Virginia Tech or No. 3 Miami to secure its postseason invitation.


Week nine is nothing more than a new starting line for the Terps.

"I told them the other day that it's really the start of another season," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen Tuesday during his weekly media conference. "We're 4-4. We might as well be 0-0. It's a three-game schedule with the hope of playing four."

For the Terps, their destiny is truly in their hands. Maryland travels to North Carolina this week and finishes the regular season at North Carolina State on Nov. 26, two teams that are rowing the same boat.

Maryland hosts reeling Boston College in the middle on Nov. 19. The Eagles are coming off a stinging 16-14 loss to the Tar Heels to host the Wolfpack this week before coming to Maryland.

"I always like a challenge," Fridgen said. "I think we're a lot better team than we were last year. We just have to go out and show people how well we can play and we have to close the deal."

Maryland would be in a much better situation if it were able to finish games. The Terps have been on the doorstep of possible victories three times - the last coming Oct. 29 against Florida State - only to falter in the final nine minutes of the game.

"We had the chance to win last week and against Clemson and West Virginia," Friedgen said. "Until we (finish off games), we can't be a good team. The last two weeks we had opportunities and didn't take advantage of them."

North Carolina has become a tough assignment for the Terps after the way the Tar Heels have rejuvenated themselves over the last few weeks. After losing badly to Louisville, Carolina has come back to win two of the last three, beating Virginia and Boston College to get back into bowl position.

Maryland will get a boost on Saturday when quarterback Sam Hollenbach returns to the starting lineup after missing most of the Florida State game with a shoulder injury. Joel Statham replaced Hollenbach against Florida State, and nearly pulled out the win, but will turn the ball back over to the 6-foot-5 junior.

"I think Sam is our best quarterback," Friedgen said. "Sam shows a lot of leadership to our team. I don't think he's like he was before he got hurt, but I think he's back to being able to play at full capacity. Obviously we're concerned at how he holds up, but I'm hoping he'll be able to run the whole thing."

The big drawback for the Terps might come from the shroud of mystery surrounding a Halloween night scuffle which led to the suspension of four players. Friedgen refused to talk about the incident or to name the players involved.

Instead, Friedgen is more worried about getting Maryland positioned in the starting gates for that final sprint to the finish and what reaching the finish line ahead of the pack will mean.

"(Reaching a bowl game is) important to continuing our momentum as a program," Friedgen said. "It comes down to how badly we want to go to a bowl game, so we have to practice and play like that is our goal. There is no doubt in my mind that we can do that, but we're playing some pretty good teams that have the same goals that we do.

"So it will come down to who wants it more. It comes down to who will invoke their will on the others."

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