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Terps try to right wrongs

August 08, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

When Ralph Friedgen thinks back on the season that was 2006, the season that wasn't is one of the first things that come to mind.

"When you look back on the whole season, last year was very close to being a very special season," said the Maryland football coach during the Terrapins' annual media day. "If we had won one of those last two games, we could've been in Jacksonville playing for the ACC Championship and maybe even the Orange Bowl."

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Somehow, someway, the Terps navigated through a season that some wrote off before it started and posted a 9-4 record - including a 5-3 mark, good for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division, and a win in the Champs Sports Bowl.

But Maryland didn't get to play for the ACC Championship.

"That was my goal, so in some ways I was disappointed, but after we came back, I was pretty proud of our kids," Friedgen said.

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Last year's success has the Terps looking forward to the 2007 season, but the failure of the final two games - losses to Boston College and Wake Forest when the division title was on the line - has them motivated to take the next step.

"We have momentum, it's all about how you finish," said running back Lance Ball. "It's been that way since I have been playing peewee football."

So the Terps are reloading for another run at some of Friedgen's well-devised goals. And this time, they are a little older, a little smarter and much more experienced than the team that played last season.

"It you look at us offensively, we have our top two running backs coming back and our top fullback," Friedgen said. "We have three of our best wide receivers back, plus I'm excited about some of our backups. All of our tight ends are back and four out of five starters on the offensive line are back.

"On our defensive line, two out of our three starters are back, but all the kids that have played quite a bit. Our only linebacker returning is Erin Henderson, but I think we have speed at that position."

All of the experience is putting a bowl game invitation back on Friedgen's agenda for the Terps.

"I had exit interviews with a lot of players. Seven or eight responded and said that the best time they had as a college player was going to the Champs Sports Bowl," Friedgen said. "The kids were excited about going back to a bowl. They want to go back again. They got a taste of it all and just liked it and want to go back."

The Terps scored a 24-7 victory over Purdue in the bowl which became the pinnacle performance by the Terps for the season.

"I kept watching them improve all season," Friedgen said. "Then we lost the last two games. We played our best in the bowl game. I told them that if they played like they were practicing they would be fine."

And even though Maryland will be searching for a new starting quarterback for the season, there is enough experience on the rest of the team to keep the attitude optimistic.

Still, Friedgen outlined the Terps' schedule like he was plotting a course through a minefield. He spoke of the first two games, starting Sept. 1, against Villanova and night game at Florida International before returning for a Thursday game with West Virginia. Then there is Wake Forest and Rutgers before a finishing run of Georgia Tech, Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina, Boston College, Florida State and North Carolina State.

"I don't know if there is as much parity in other leagues like there is in the ACC," he said. "I think it's good when you have that in a league. It makes it exciting for anyone."

And it allows for a little daydreaming and plotting.

"Every year I set goals and I want to win an ACC championship," Friedgen said. "That's what my goal is and that's what their goal needs to be also. We came close, but we didn't get it done last year, so we're going to see if we can do it this year.

"It's the start of a new season and I'm really excited about it. I think the kids have had good winter workouts and good spring and summer workouts. It's time to find out what kind of work we've done in preparation for the upcoming season. Now it's the fourth quarter."

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