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Maryland turns over to next chapter

September 06, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - In a lot of ways, Ralph Friedgen looks at the University of Maryland football season as an epic novel in the making.

Each game is a chapter. Each chapter has a title and a purpose.

Chapter One was: William & Mary ... Just what do we have here?

Friedgen used the Terrapins' first game to gauge all of his personnel and their response to playing a real game. The end result was a 27-14 victory in which many young players got a first taste of action while some early strengths and weaknesses were exposed.

Chapter Two comes Saturday when Maryland hosts Middle Tennessee with a yet-to-be-announced title. But the content was pretty evident. Worry about the Blue Raiders while working out the bugs before Chapter Three debuts on Sept. 14, the Terps' first major test of the season - a trip to Morgantown, W.Va., for a nationally televised game against nationally ranked West Virginia.

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"It was a good first game," Friedgen said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "A lot of first-year players had stagelights in their eyes. There were some jitters, but they will get better. We have a chance to be a good football team. We're not that good if we go out and just go through the motions. We have to improve."

Friedgen has a checklist of items the Terps need to work on, something for practically every phase of the game, including an improved passing attack, better tackling on defense and sharper play on every side of the ball.

But the one item that topped Friedgen's list: Turnovers.

"We have to stop turning the ball over," Friedgen said. "That hasn't been corrected."

Turnovers have been a problem for Maryland for the last two seasons.

Maryland defeated William & Mary despite losing the turnover battle, 4-0. One of the Terps' fumbles led to the Tribe's first touchdown.

Maryland has not found a knack for getting the ball away from its opponents.

"We made some mistakes in the first game," Terps defensive back Marcus Wimbush said. "It was more like we were reaching and grabbing. I think a lot of us were anxious to play against a real team for the first time and we were leaving our feet trying to make the big hits."

Big hits are highlight-reel moments, but they are rare. The Terps have changed their defensive set from 5-3 to a four-linebacker alignment in an effort to put more pressure on the ball at the line of scrimmage. The turnovers might come as Maryland's defense returns to the basic principle of gang tackling.

"We are told to play from the top down," Wimbush said. "If we get beat, take the receiver down while giving up minimal yards. The first guy there has to go to make the tackle, and then when the second guy gets there, he can start going for the strip. We have to make that good tackle with the first guy. If one guy's there, making the strip, that's not a good thing. It results in a missed tackle and a big play."

Friedgen is more concerned with the turnovers the Terps give away than the ones they take away.

Friedgen said starting quarterback Sam Hollenbach did a better job on Saturday in protecting the ball than he did in 2005, and that the less Hollenbach is noticed, the better the Terps will be.

"I keep telling him that it's not what he does that will make us a good team," Friedgen said. "It's what he doesn't do that will make us a success. If he doesn't make mistakes and doesn't turn the ball over, we'll be fine."

There is still much to do for Maryland this Saturday against Middle Tennessee and then at West Virginia and beyond.

"We played a lot of guys," Friedgen said. "Now we have to take those guys and re-evaluate. We have to try and put the right pieces of the puzzle together so that we have our best players on the field."

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