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Oquendo: Old days of Knights are gone

September 28, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - There's one thing that Danny Oquendo knows for sure.

The University of Maryland football team won't be facing his uncle's Rutgers when the Terrapins head to New Jersey on Saturday.

Oquendo is a New Jersey native heading home to play. And when he gets there, he knows he will be seeing a different brand of Scarlet Knights.

"I used to go all the time to see my uncle when he played for them," Oquendo said. "They weren't doing that well."

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Oquendo remembered that when he was recruited out of Hackensack High School. Rutgers looked at him and so did Maryland. He chose Maryland because of the perks that went with the job.

He chose Maryland because the Atlantic Coast Conference was the stronger league at the time and the Terps were a better team than Rutgers. And there was one more reason.

"I thought I had a better opportunity of playing at Maryland," he said.

But the times have changed. Rutgers brought in Greg Schiano to coach and the Scarlet Knights morphed into a nationally ranked team. They were the surprise team in the nation last year and are presently ranked 10th heading into Saturday's game.

"What was the state of the team when I was recruited?" Oquendo said. "There was no state of the team. They were waiting for one big year to hit. Now they are a Top-10 team."

For Oquendo, it will just add to the drama of the situation when he returns home on Saturday.

First, the Terps will be trying to get the effects of last Saturday's 31-24 collapse to Wake Forest out of their systems. Maryland led 24-3 until a 100-yard interception return with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter turned the game around and led the Demon Deacons to a run of 28 points and a win in overtime.

"We played a great game against Wake Forest besides that one quarter, but we have to keep our confidence up," Oquendo said. "The next day we decided we needed to forget about it and the only way we can move on is just by forgetting about last week and worrying about next week."

Then Oquendo, who has nine catches for 91 yards and a touchdown this season, has all his friends coming to see him play.

But the biggest thing - one that Oquendo admits he never thought he would see - is that Maryland will be facing a Top-10 team for the second time in three weeks. The Terps lost 31-14 to No. 4 West Virginia on Sept. 13.

A win on Saturday will go a long way toward wiping away the memories of the Wake Forest loss.

"You don't get opportunities (to face two Top-10 teams) like this twice in a season too often," Oquendo said.

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