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Terps hope to better navigate treacherous road

September 12, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland football team doesn't need a map to figure out what is ahead in Week 3.

The Terrapins have been down this road before. It has all the familiar landmarks and curves from other trips. The goal is to keep from losing control.

So far, Maryland's season has been a drive down Underachievement Boulevard. Maryland took a wrong turn off High Expectation Road and Consistency Court and crashed headlong into the wall.

Maryland overturned at Middle Tennessee State last week in a 24-14 loss. The Terps exited the wreckage battered and bruised, but they claim the experience will make them all the better when they get behind the wheel again Saturday for a noon game with No. 23 California at Byrd Stadium.

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The reason? Maryland was in a similar situation in Week 5 last year. It suffered an unsettling overtime loss to Wake Forest, only to come back the following week with an impressive 24-14 road victory over then-No. 5 Rutgers.

"After losing the (Middle Tennessee) game like that, we are looking to the (California) game to redeem ourselves," said Maryland tight end Dan Gronkowski. "When we come out against nationally ranked teams, we usually do well in those games. We're really looking forward to it."

Last year's win over Rutgers was the turning point of Maryland's season. The Terps went on to defeat Boston College, another nationally ranked team, which helped them become bowl eligible. They went on to win the Emerald Bowl and finish 7-6.

California is a powerful team, scoring more than 50 points per game. The game could give a clear indication of the path the Terps (1-1) will follow the rest of the way. Maryland's goal was to be 4-0 heading into Sept. 27's Atlantic Coast Conference opener with Clemson.

Coach Ralph Friedgen decided not to push the panic button after the wrong turn at Middle Tennessee. Instead, he took a kid-gloved approach while hoping to steer the Terps in the right direction.

"I told them, 'Like a lot of things in life, when you're down, you still have an opportunity to come back,'" Friedgen said at his weekly media conference. "It's one game. We let one get away."

Still, the Middle Tennessee loss seems to be part of a growing trend for Maryland.

"I hope we would play up to the level of our competition," said defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre. "I think that we are a team that does that a lot and it's not something we haven't seen before."

There was no admission that Maryland took Middle Tennessee lightly.

The team mantra for this week is the need to practice harder, become more consistent with execution, communicate more on the field and be better prepared to play -- all things the Terps will need to succeed against California.

"We're ready," said defensive back Jeff Allen. "We know they are in the top 25 and it's an ESPN game, so everyone will be watching the ACC vs. Pac 10. We have to be ready and not only show up for ourselves, but for the conference, too."

In the process, Friedgen is trying to fine-tune the Terps' thinking.

"We can't do anything about what happened last week," Friedgen said. "We sure can do something about what's going to happen in the future."

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