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Middle Tennessee, WVU only have Maryland in common

September 10, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - When it was all over, the time the University of Maryland spent with Middle Tennessee State more resembled an ice cream social than a football game.

It was a reason for the Terrapins, the fans and the media to get together one last time before Maryland ships out on Thursday to face No. 6 West Virginia in a nationally televised game in Morgantown, W.Va.

Maryland's 24-10 win over Middle Tennessee just became a checkpoint on the itinerary. The Blue Raiders showed up and ran up all kinds of yardage on the Terps, but didn't score points.

That's good and bad.

"It was a good win," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We are right where we want to be - 2-0 - but we have a big game coming up this week and we've got to get ready."

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The only thing Middle Tennessee and WVU have in common is that you have to head west to get there. As far as football goes, they are galaxies apart.

Middle Tennessee tried to rock Maryland to sleep with a possession game, working the outside of the field to open up the middle.

"I thought we played well," said Maryland linebacker Wesley Jefferson. "We had a lot of snaps today. We weren't as sharp as we could be, but we only had the William & Mary game so far. I think we will be better against WVU."

That is almost a requirement for the Terps.

WVU doesn't want to keep the ball long. It would rather score quickly and put the pressure on the opponents. Just ask Eastern Washington, a 52-3 loser in Morgantown on Saturday.

In the backdrop, Middle Tennessee tested Maryland's patience.

For the second straight week, the Terps were outgained in yardage (321-274) and were in the short end of the time of possession (34:04 to 25:56), but still got enough points to win.

"Statistics are for losers and we lost the game," Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. "We probably had more yards total offense than they did. Maryland played a good game. I thought we were better offensively but there were just too many mistakes. Mistakes at this level you just can't accept."

Those are words to heed for the Terps heading into Thursday.

Everything will be a notch faster on Thursday, much faster than the Terps experienced against William & Mary or Middle Tennessee. Speed causes mistakes.

"(Middle Tennessee) did a good job with the possession passing game," Friedgen said. "We have to do a better job than that. We still have to tackle better. It seems like we are playing on eggshells. We play more aggressively against ourselves than we do against others."

Friedgen applauded the play of quarterback Sam Hollenbach and the Terps' offense for efficiency and the lack of turnovers. He appreciated the play of the special teams, especially the kick returns of Josh Wilson, who again found a way to be a catalyst for Maryland.

But the Middle Tennessee win just became a backdrop to what Maryland has to do in the next three days.

"(We have to be better) tackling for one," Friedgen said. "They have a quarterback, a tailback and a big fullback ... it's going to be a physical game. We have to raise our game to a different level. The offense has to get the ball into the end zone more."

But Friedgen is counting on the timing of the trip to WVU to change the Terps' outlook for the week and the upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference season.

"It'll be interesting to see how the team reacts to playing on Thursday night with the whole mystique," Friedgen said. "Playing on Thursday is like playing on Monday Night Football. The atmosphere is electric. It'll be good for our players. It'll be great preparation for the rest of the season."

And it could make or break the Terps, long before the ACC part of the schedule begins.

"We'll be ready," said Maryland tailback Lance Ball. "We have been coming down to the level of our opponents. With bigger opponents, we'll have to take our game up."

And, at least for the time being, a vanilla win over Middle Tennessee is the right flavor to get Maryland ready for WVU.

"We're practicing (today)," Jefferson said. "Everybody is ready to play. Even in the locker room after the game, we knew that we had to move on to the next opponent, and that is West Virginia. We're ready and fired up to go. We've been really looking forward to them since last year. We'll be ready to go."

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