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Maryland football starts anew

September 14, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland football team approached its game like Paris Hilton looks at a party dress.

If you don't like it, change.

It worked for the Terrapins, who transformed from wallflowers to runway idols with a 35-27 win over No. 23 California. It came a week after Maryland was basically humiliated in a 24-14 loss at Middle Tennessee State.

"They told me it was a new season," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "(Offensive coordinator James) Franklin said that last week. He said it's a whole new season. We are done with the exhibition games. It was time to play for real."

It looked like it was real. Maybe all Maryland needed to run a West Coast offense was to play a West Coast team.

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The Terps played the offense just like it was designed by Franklin. There was good running by Da'Rel Scott, until he got injured, and Davin Meggett to set things in motion for quarterback Chris Turner to get his legs under him. It made the Terps a new, dangerous team.

"Any time you can run the ball, it makes life easier," said Turner, who took over as starting quarterback after Jordan Steffy was injured in the opener. "This feels great. We said if we play our game, we'd have a shot and we did.

"We had the mindset that we were 0-0. We are not in the (Atlantic Coast Conference) yet. This gave us the confidence that we can beat anyone."

Turner played the part, hitting on 15 for 19 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His quicker decisions in passing -- and Scott's early running -- allowed Maryland to build a 21-3 lead just four seconds into the second quarter. Scott scored on runs of 24 and 1 yards to give the Terps a 14-0 lead in the first 6 minutes, 19 seconds of the game.

It was a clean start with an offense that was running the way it was supposed to.

"What I saw in Chris was it was making sense," Franklin said. "He went through the progression (of reads) and took what was there. We still have to put four quarters together. We played a great first quarter, but after that we were pretty inconsistent. We could have scored more points."

Even bigger might have been the "new start" of Maryland's defense, which took a Cal team that averaged more than 500 yards and 52 points a game and made it look ordinary. At times, Cal looked even less than ordinary.

Maryland took away the Golden Bears' multipurpose back, Jahvid Best, who was averaging 155 yards per game. He finished with just 25 and was no factor. Meanwhile, Cal rolled up 423 yards passing with quarterback Kevin Riley flinging the ball 58 times, just to get back in the game. Maryland owned a 28-6 lead after three quarters.

The Terps put pressure on the ball, getting their first sack of the season on the fourth play of the game, which may have signaled the change.

"I think we started a new season and we started it right," said Maryland linebacker Moise Fokou, who got that first sack. "We considered those first two games the preseason. We are 1-0 now and we want to play well in the ACC."

The victory put an end to what was a difficult week for the Terps, who were facing doubters from all sides about the direction of the season. Maryland took a bunker mentality, working quietly on getting prepared and carrying it over from practice to the game field.

"I thought we were more focused than hyped," tight end Dan Gronkowski said. "We showed we can play with the big boys today."

It was a matter of proving it to themselves. The win over California puts a whole new light on the Terps' season.

"We knew that if we could get this win, it could change the trajectory of the season," Turner said. "Hopefully, we can capitalize on this victory. I think this game proves that we can play with anyone."

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