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Terps back to drawing board as Wake looms

October 15, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland football team has approached the season wearing rose-colored glasses.

Now it's time to change the prescription - again.

Maryland comes off its off week after heading back to the drawing board. Coach Ralph Friedgen put the Terrapins in an almost make-or-break situation for the last half of the season, starting on Saturday when they host No. 21 Wake Forest in what has become another in a long line of key games for Maryland.

"We got a lot accomplished during the off week," Friedgen said Tuesday during his weekly media conference. "We have to get ready for an important game. This is the most important game of the season."

Hit the pause button. We've heard that one before. The Terps are running out of chalk and must go out and pound the erasers because they have recalculated back at the season chalkboard so many times.

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Four, to be exact.

Maryland came out at the beginning of the season with a definite plan - to win the Atlantic Division and a berth in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

Since then, the Terps have claimed do-over three times - after a loss to Middle Tennessee State, before the ACC opener with Clemson in the fifth week and now, after the off week and an embarrassing 31-0 loss to Virginia. The first three times, the Terps have responded with wins - leading to their 4-2 record and 1-1 mark in the ACC.

From here on out, it is all ACC, all the time. Maryland has to get things right if it has any chance on getting to those original goals that popped up three rewrites ago.

"We are still in this race," Friedgen said. "I told (the Terps) that we are now in a six-team tournament. The team that wins the most games from here on out will probably win the division. You have to win the division first to win the championship game."

On the surface, it might look like a situation of smoke, mirrors and rabbit's feet for Maryland. The Terps have their share of good wins (over California and Clemson) but have been nailed with bad losses (Middle Tennessee and Virginia).

Add to the mix the fact that Maryland hasn't fared well against Wake Forest in the last two meetings. In 2006, the Demon Deacons defeated Maryland at Byrd Stadium in what amounted to the Atlantic Division championship game to advance to the ACC title game. Last season, Wake came back from a 21-point deficit for a 31-24 victory.

"The last two years, they have been two tough losses to Wake," Friedgen said. "We are going to need our best effort. That is what we have done as a team. We've come back. That's our team."

Friedgen is counting on Maryland's ability to play to the level of its opponents.

The Terps lost to Middle Tennessee - a team that shouldn't have been in the game, at least on paper - and to Virginia, which ranked as the lowest scoring team in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision before laying 31 points on the Terps.

But after the rededication processes, Maryland has knocked off California and Clemson, both teams which were ranked in the Top 25 heading into those games.

"A win in this game will get us back in the lead in our division," Friedgen said. "We will be 2-1 (in the ACC) and it gets us closer to a bowl game. I think if you look at our record, we have responded pretty good coming into these situations. ... I believe in our players.

"We are 4-2 and I don't think we've even come close to playing at our potential. Sometimes I look at it and we are probably fortunate to be where we are right now. I'm waiting for us to play where I think we can play."

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