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'06 Terps are in familiar territory

November 09, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - There is a strange feeling of familiarity at the University of Maryland these days.

The more the Terrapins play, the more there is this feeling that Maryland has been here before a feeling of dj vu.

That's because the more the Terps play, the more they seem to be following the same course that was carved by Maryland's 2001 team, the first coached by Ralph Friedgen.

And that's not a bad thing.

"There are a lot of similarities between this team and the first team," Friedgen said. "Just from the confidence factor, the perseverance, the togetherness I think they were determined to have a good season even when things were shaky."

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Neither team, the one in 2001 or now in 2006, was thought to have a shot at playing for the Atlantic Coast Conference title.

The first team was used to being in the bottom of the pack before Friedgen came along and shook things up. It was a shaking that this year's team needed after finishing 5-6 the last two seasons.

In 2001, Friedgen came on and retooled the offense.

He turned senior quarterback Shaun Hill into an efficient manager of the game, who threw safe passes and ran some option plays to keep defenses guessing.

He found a running back that could provide some strong running and speed in Bruce Perry.

And, to top it off, Friedgen found ways to put the Terps in positions to succeed.

It resulted in a surprising 10-2 record, the ACC title, a No. 6 national ranking and a trip to the Orange Bowl.

Fast forward five years and the Terps are nearing the same crossroads again.

The 2006 Terps are 7-2, challenging for the ACC Atlantic Division lead and back in the polls at No. 23.

Friedgen is again building the confidence of a quarterback, this time Sam Hollenbach. He has given Hollenbach the confidence and the tools to compete in and win games by putting him in a position to be successful.

"I think we are starting to get better. I see some progress with Sam and his development," Friedgen said. "I've seen some progress with our line. I wish we had more receivers, we are limited, we really only have three guys. It is what it is. You have to make the most of what you've got. I'm trying to use what we've got and trying to squeeze all we can out of it."

With a controlled style of offense, Friedgen has helped the Terps improve. Hollenbach has been called on to become a rollout-style quarterback, running some bootlegs and throwing fewer passes and shorter patterns to move the ball.

The results are four straight conference wins which have put Maryland in a place that no one imagined - tied for the division lead at 4-1.

"I'm always asking them, 'How are we going to be in the moments that come to win the game?'" Friedgen said. "Last year, we didn't pass those moments. This year, we are."

Maryland's widest margin of victory this year is 14 points. In the ACC, the average margin of victory is a paltry three points, so there has been a lot of 'winning moments' to work on.

"A couple weeks ago, we blocked a field goal at the end of the game (against Florida State)," Friedgen said. "You don't think that was a winning moment? Then we got lucky on Saturday. They scored a touchdown and only had 10 players on the field. It got called back and then we stopped them. When the defense has got breaks, we have stopped them.

"Now, we are starting to make plays and we are being confident enough to make them. That's the big difference that and not turning the ball over."

Maryland rallied back from a 20-point deficit to defeat Virginia last month, which is being hailed as the turning point of the season. The Terps may have arrived this past week when they held on for a 13-12 victory at Clemson, a game in which Maryland was a big underdog.

"I don't really know what the point spread is. I don't really care." Friedgen said. "In my mind, I'm planning on winning each and every week. It was a good win because of where it was and who we were playing.

"But if you look back, just in my tenure here, there have been a lot of great wins where we've been the underdog or when we come back from behind. I'm going to sort all that out when I hang them up, because I am expecting a few more."

Three big ones are yet to come, with Miami this weekend followed by games with Boston College and Wake Forest, both running with Maryland for the division title and the chance to play in the ACC Championship Game. The winner of that game heads to the Orange Bowl, where the 2001 Terps played.

And while these Terps carry some similarities to their 2001 brethren, the differences come in the methods of winning.

Maryland averaged 34 points and 433 yards per game in 2001. This season, the Terps are rolling out 23 points and 298 yards per game in comparison.

"I look at it and I see there are some areas I think we could get better, but sometimes I think I know what I have to do in order to win the football game. That's the most important stat," Friedgen said. "Our margin of error is small. As long as we can continue to do what we have to do to win games, that is what I am going to do."

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