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Nothing comes easy for Terrapins

September 24, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Sometimes victories are like the subject of closing time in country songs.

Tonight, everything is gorgeous. Tomorrow ... well, it's a whole lot different when you are seeing more clearly.

The initial feeling after the University of Maryland held off Florida International for a 14-10 victory on Saturday was satisfaction. But come interview time, that hangover feeling began to set in.

"No matter how you play, if you got more points at the end, you win," Maryland linebacker Wesley Jefferson said. "A win is a win."

Still, it was queasy, bicarb time for the Terps. The offense was as flat as a wafer. The defense was pressed to the very last second, needing an interception in the end zone by Christian Varner as time expired to secure the win.

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And the emotions were stretched like saltwater taffy.

But the beauty of it all was in the eyes of the beholder ... the head coach in this case.

"I'd rather win ugly than lose (pretty)," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.

It wasn't all that glamorous.

The Terps were pressed by a team that's now 0-4, having lost those four games by a total of 11 points.

The offense was lethargic. The defense held on, to the very end.

"I'm happy with the way we played, but I think we can play better. It was one of those nights when we couldn't make a play," Friedgen said. "I was concerned. The plays that could be made, we weren't making. When guys were open, we didn't hit them. When we did hit them, they dropped the ball. It was two steps forward and three steps back."

The whole process had an adverse affect on a game which many wrote off as an easy, dominating victory. Maryland's momentum sunk like an olive to the bottom of a martini glass.

"We came out and turned the switch on too late," said Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach. "I thought we were a little conservative - not in the play-calling - but that was our manner. We need to treat every game like an ACC game. Tonight, we needed to hit it right off the bat and we didn't."

Maryland continued to have problems hitting deep passes. The offense was relegated to swing and screen passes out of the backfield and time-consuming runs. Florida International's secondary had a lot to do with the process, but Maryland didn't help itself.

"They were a very complicated defense," said Friedgen, who doubles as the Terps' offensive coordinator. "I played more conservatively than regularly. I didn't want to screw up and make a mistake that would have given them the ball way downfield. For the first time ever, I felt tentative. ... I don't like feeling that way."

Florida International used short plays to move Maryland around until it found an opening to attack.

The Golden Panthers finished with 310 yards of offense, but 186 of it came on three plays - an 89-yard catch-and-run TD pass to tight end Samuel Smith, a 52-yard run around end by A'mod Ned to set up a field goal, and the 45-yard Josh Padrick-to-Chand Williams pass to the Terps 9 on the second-to-last play.

"Their offense didn't run the ball. It was kind of slow and then it gets you," Jefferson said. "We have to stop playing down to the level of the competition."

The pretty picture for the Terps on Saturday was this: They are 3-1 heading into an off week before Atlantic Coast Conference play starts.

Today, it might not be as pretty.

"You have to give Florida International a lot of credit," Friedgen said. "They have a lot of skilled kids and should have a lot better record than they have. I'm happy with the win, but I think we should have played better."

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