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Friedgen professes his faith in Terps

October 01, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Ralph Friedgen hasn't quite been himself lately.

The University of Maryland football coach has been saying things out loud and conveying personal thoughts about the Terrapins.

In other words, the walls of Friedgen's personal assessment have come tumbling down.

"I have faith in this team. I've gone on the record, which I normally don't do," Friedgen said on Tuesday during his weekly media conference. "So there is a special feeling that I have with this team. It's mostly because of the seniors."

Having 22 seniors on the team, including 15 starters, helps the coach sleep with at least one eye closed on most nights.

All the good feelings Friedgen has for these Terps were intensified last Saturday when they came back from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat then-No. 20 Clemson in its famed Death Valley habitat.

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The Clemson win may well become the signature victory of the season for Maryland. The Tigers entered the game as the Atlantic Coast Conference's choice as "the team to beat" in the chase for a berth in the league's championship game. Now, the Tigers are looking up at the Terps and Wake Forest in the Atlantic Division standings.

With the win, the Terps stand on the doorstep of the unthinkable. They also hold the key for success, which is a fact that makes Friedgen's confidence a little uneasy.

"I am struggling right now to get them to understand what is out there for them if they would just focus and concentrate for the next two-and-a-half to three months," Friedgen said. "They have a chance to achieve something that they could look back on for the rest of their life and be pretty proud about. I don't know if I am getting that across."

The uneasiness stems from Maryland's inability to play a complete game.

The Terps didn't show up three weeks ago when they lost to Middle Tennessee State. A week later, Maryland played well the first three quarters before shutting down in the final seven minutes in the win over California. And then, last week at Clemson, the Terps waited until the second half to make an appearance.

"At times, we play a half or just the second half," said linebacker Moise Fokou. "We are not playing a whole game. If we can get it together and play the whole thing, we would be dangerous."

Maryland is dangerous when it wants to be. After playing down to the level of Middle Tennessee, the Terps have become one of three teams nationally to knock off two ranked teams this season, matching East Carolina and Alabama.

Maryland plays Virginia this week -- a team that isn't in the same stratosphere, especially after losing 31-3 to Duke last week -- but it is a rivalry game and possible trap for the Terps, who play to the level of their opponents.

After Virginia comes an off week before the Terps dive headlong into the second half of the season with games against Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State and Boston College, all teams that could create bumps in the road to a possible championship game berth.

By then, Maryland needs to overcome the inconsistency. It is annoying to Friedgen, but not as much as usual.

"I would be more frustrated if we didn't win four games," Friedgen said. "If you look on the brighter side, we've been able to win games and I think we can still play better than how we are playing. I think we are in a stretch right now and if we don't do it we are going to regret it."

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