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Maryland's bowling for a victory

November 23, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Sometimes perfect isn't perfect.

In another time, another place, University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen would be ecstatic about the progression of the Terrapins this season.

Words like "progress," "improving," "playing hard," "proud" and "effort" dotted Friedgen's comments when speaking about the team during his weekly media conference.

Many coaches would give their practice whistle to say all those glowing comments. But even the picture-perfect outline was in need of an airbrushing. No matter how well the Terps have been doing, one vital thing has been wrong.

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"With all the effort that this team puts out, they need to feel the positive," Friedgen said. "And that goes to winning ..."

Wins are the big thing separating the Terps from an average year, a good year and a breakout year. Maryland has knocked on the door of victory many times this season only to be turned away because of its own mistakes.

And now, in the final week of the regular season, Maryland's bowl life is sitting on a do-or-die decision with Saturday's game at North Carolina State. If the Terps win, they are likely - but not guaranteed - a bid to a bowl game. If they lose, they are watching those bowl games for the second straight time.

Last Saturday's loss to Boston College is one example which encompassed Maryland's entire season. The Terps did everything to stay in the game but gave it away totally in the fourth quarter with costly mistakes. The Terps lost 31-16 to Boston College, with 17 points coming off Maryland turnovers.

"There's a source of frustration," Friedgen said. "I wouldn't say that we're discouraged, though. I'm pleased with how we are working. I think we're optimistic and that shows in the effort. We're playing hard enough to win. We have to take advantage of the opportunities and we aren't doing that."

In that perfect world, using the positives Friedgen listed, Maryland would have already locked up a bowl berth. Six victories usually get the invitation and anything more than that usually upgrades where that invitation is coming from.

But Maryland has been outscored 83-30 in the fourth quarter of its five losses, including 55 of those points coming in the final 10 minutes of the game. The Terps have held the upperhand, but have lost the grip in the end.

"We're playing hard enough to win games. It's our mistakes that are killing us right now," Friedgen said. "We need to get better. Obviously (Saturday at North Carolina State) is an important game."

"This team is very deserving of a winning record," Friedgen said. "We've been in almost every game we've played. We just have to close things out and not beat ourselves."

Saturday's N.C. State game will be a duel to the death. Both teams enter with 5-5 records and need the victory to become bowl eligible. Even if either team reaches the level, there are only six bowls that the ACC has engraved invitations to with a chance of as many as nine teams eligible to go.

The Atlantic Coast Conference added the Music City Bowl to the list for this season Tuesday. Bowl organizers turned to the ACC since the Southeastern Conference won't have enough eligible teams to take the invitation.

"I would like (a bowl game) for our players because they put so much work into this season," Friedgen said. "Getting to a bowl was one of the major goals that they had. As far as the program is concerned, it continues our momentum, but if we don't get it, it's not going to stop all together. I'm hoping that they'll look at our past history. I hope they look at how we played against Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College."

While a bowl would be the cherry on the top of the season, no matter what happens on Saturday, Friedgen might remember this 2005 team as the most perfect 6-5 or 5-6 team he every coached.

"Whether we win or lose on Saturday, I'm going to have the same feeling about this team," Friedgen said. "I've been pleased with how they've worked. I think they deserve to win Saturday, but win or lose, I appreciated their effort for the whole year and that's not going to change."

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