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Terps must be wary of 'cupcake' Delaware

August 27, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - In Division I college football, most teams are like kids at the dinner table.

They like to have a cupcake before they get to the meat and potatoes.

It's not uncommon for top-flight teams to open with an easy victory against an overmatched opponent. The game becomes nothing more than a dress rehearsal - a way to wear uniforms, impress the alumni and work out the kinks that go with a season opener.

The University of Maryland must have lost that buffet menu. Their "cupcake" could very well hand the Terrapins their just desserts.

Maryland opens with Delaware on Saturday at Byrd Stadium. The Terps are Goliath representing the Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A) against the Blue Hens, who come in as David of the Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA).

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"Obviously, this is a game of perception," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "I've always been more of a substance guy. I look at Delaware and they have a lot of players I would like to have on my team."

This cupcake finished second to Appalachian State - which stunned Michigan to open last season - in the Championship Subdivision national championship game in 2007 and enters this season ranked No. 9. The Blue Hens lost their quarterback - Joe Flacco, who was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens - but have 14 players who have transferred in from Division I schools, including Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.

"We have a really tough game coming up," said Friedgen, who has said that about nearly every opponent the Terps have faced in his first seven seasons. "We really have to focus on them. They have 14 players who have transferred from Division I, so they won't be in awe coming into here."

Instead of a cupcake, Maryland scheduled itself a main course, especially since Delaware has speed and depth.

Delaware also runs a variation of the same West Coast offense the Terps will be employing this season.

"(Our players) can look at the tape and see how good this team is," Friedgen said. "Their quarterback (Flacco) was a No. 1 pick, but it's obvious there were a lot of talented people around him as the supporting cast."

Part of that cast includes Jerry Butler, a 5-foot-9 tailback who transferred from Wisconsin, and tight end Robbie Agnone, who started out at Pittsburgh. One of the quarterback possibilities to replace Flacco is Robby Schoenhoft, a junior who came via Ohio State. Delaware also has 14 returning starters.

Meanwhile, the Terps will be running a new offense, led by senior quarterback Jordan Steffy. But Maryland has very little experience at running back, which could signal a lot of short passing. On defense, the Terps will be turning to a new 3-5-3 alignment, designed to put more pressure on quarterbacks.

The Terps are just trying to get in a position where the "cupcake" doesn't take the cake.

"I'd love to get off to a good start," Friedgen said. "We have always struggled in that area. A good start will help us start reaching our goals by giving us more confidence to start with."

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