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Terps can't sleep on Wolfpack

October 24, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Alarm clocks at the University of Maryland don't ring.

Instead, they go "thud."

It's hard to say, but it's quite possible the daylights were scared into the Terrapins with a 31-0 loss to Virginia three weeks ago.

"Maybe it woke us up as a team," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I can look back at (Oct. 4's game at Virginia) now and it is still a very tough loss. I hope we'll find out as the games go on."

It has been rise and shine for Maryland ever since. In reality, the Terps couldn't have fallen any lower.

That loss sent Maryland on a soul-searching vacation before returning last week for an incredibly efficient 26-0 shutout victory over Wake Forest. That win rescued the Terps from the abyss and put them in a four-way tie for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division with a 2-1 record.

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The Terps will find out if there is any carryover when they face North Carolina State on Saturday for Homecoming. It's a matchup which means so much to Maryland's chances, yet it is also a test to see if the Terps remember the lessons they learned in the loss to Virginia.

"When you've passed 40 years in coaching, you have seen seasons like this," Friedgen said. "What I have learned to do, that I had trouble doing when I was a young coach, is knowing that when the game is over, it is over, and I start focusing on the next opponent.

"With Virginia it was hard because there was no next opponent, so that one got to me."

Maryland's loss was followed by an off week. The Terps took the time to do some reevaluating and readjusting for Wake Forest. It ended with the huge victory.

"It was a way to get back to find what football is all about," said center Edwin Williams. "It's supposed to be fun. When you get to six games, everything starts to get to be the same. You don't see the big picture."

The big picture for Maryland was inconsistency and a lack of overall focus. The Terps were losing touch with their playmakers offensively and were playing loose defensively.

That helped Virginia. The Cavaliers have won three straight, including a critical overtime victory over North Carolina last Saturday, which knocked the Tar Heels out of the Atlantic Division's first-place dogpile.

"The ACC is up for grabs. No one expected us to be up there on our side," said receiver Danny Oquendo. "These days, it's tough to get up and play every week. Back in the day, there were only like two games you had to get up for. Now, you have to be up to play everyone."

Enter N.C. State, which sets up as a possible trap game for the Terps, if they allow it.

The Wolfpack, who are winless in the ACC, aren't nationally ranked -- and rankings have served as motivation for Maryland. But what N.C. State has is a history with the Terps.

Seven of the last eight Maryland-N.C. State games have gone to the wire with a 5.4-point average margin of victory. Last year, the Terps broke the mold with a 37-0 victory in Raleigh, N.C.

The Wolfpack have a history of speedy receivers to challenge Maryland's secondary. The Terps enter Saturday's game trying to plug holes in the defensive backfield, especially since Kevin Barnes, arguably the Terps' best defender, is out for the game and quite possibly much longer.

At any rate, Maryland's history with N.C. State and the Virginia aftermath will be meeting head on with huge implications.

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