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Can Terps turn dream into reality?

November 25, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Reality has a way of getting in the way of dreams ... even if it's only for a little while.

Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen relied on dreams and goals to pump up the Terrapins on what has become an improbable ride to the brink of an Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division title. It has pretty much been the motivation to get them where they are today.

First, the goal was a sixth win and eligibility for a bowl invitation. Then it was a possible division title and a trip to the ACC championship game. With each win, the bowl bid got bigger and the title hopes stronger.

Then something happened. The Terps lost ... and it brought some uncertainty.

"One of the kids said after the game and I think it is true, 'We need to finish,'" Friedgen said. "I think that's very accurate. We've had too good a season not to give everything we've got and then see where we go from there."

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The loss put Maryland on a roller-coaster ride for the last couple of days. The Terps entered this week in a three-way tie for the Atlantic Division berth to the ACC title game. Now there are only two after Boston College lost to Miami on Thanksgiving night.

Maryland's game with Wake Forest tonight at 7:45 will decide which team will play Georgia Tech on Dec. 2 for the ACC title and the berth in the Orange Bowl.

Miami's win gave Maryland the chance to try for its ultimate goal.

It will also make Friedgen's task of "finishing the season" easier to sell.

"We still have the opportunity to win 10 games," Friedgen said. "There are not many other teams in the history of this school that would have been able to accomplish what this team has been able to accomplish."

Friedgen credits the Terps' seniors with getting Maryland this far because of their leadership. But it had been the Terps' ability to hold onto the ball and to play under pressure that got them to this position.

Ball control worked on a recent five-game winning streak, but was obviously missing in a stunningly lopsided 38-16 loss to Boston College last weekend, which put Maryland's title hopes on life support.

"We didn't play very well (last) Saturday; we probably played our worst game," Friedgen said. "There was actually a lot of disappointment there, but that's over with and there's nothing we can do about that. We need to worry about something that we can do something about and that's this weekend."

Maryland had three turnovers that led to three BC defensive touchdowns, good for 21 points in the Eagles' 22-point win.

"There were positives (last Saturday). All in all, it wasn't one of our better days," Friedgen said.

That loss turned the division title into a carrot hanging at the end of a stick. It forces the Terps to rediscover the conservative, efficient style of play just to have an opportunity for the finishing goals.

Now, thanks to the Hurricanes' win, getting back to form could mean a championship-game berth, bowl positioning and an elusive 10-win season. It's a now a winner-take-all game with Wake Forest, which is in the same position as Maryland - somewhere between dreams and reality.

"It just depends on who's ready to play, who turns the ball over," Friedgen said. "Anything can happen on any weekend. We are preparing for a very good game in our program."

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