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Terps' final drive divine

November 16, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen admits there are times he reaches in his pocket for a little extra help during a game.

"The way things were going wasn't the way I hoped," Friedgen said. "I reached for my rosary and things turned out all right."

There were no divine signs for the Terrapins on Saturday - outside of maybe a picturesque rainbow early in the second half - but there definitely was some inspiration as Maryland pulled out a 17-15 victory over No. 17 North Carolina at Byrd Stadium.

It was an inspired defense and a resourceful offense engineered by quarterback Chris Turner that got the job done, even though the circumstances of the game fell right to Maryland's liking. The Terps were playing at home, in an afternoon start against a ranked opponent.

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Maryland remained undefeated at home as Obi Egekeze kicked a 26-yard field goal with 1:42 remaining for the Terps' sixth straight win over a Top 25 opponent, including four this season.

The Terps have lost three games, all starting at night.

"I don't know what it is about this team," said Maryland linebacker Moise Fokou. "But I'm glad."

What it was, was a solid defense that turned back North Carolina's running game one week after allowing Virginia Tech's Darren Evans 253 yards in a 23-13 loss. The Terps held the Tar Heels to just 75 yards and kept them out of the end zone.

"They were coming here talking a lot of stuff about how they were going to run on us," Fokou said. "We just went with basic defense and didn't break any assignments. We just did basic things."

It was part of the complete package for the Terps, who inched closer to the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division title and a possible return to the Top 25 this week with the victory.

Defensively, besides holding down Carolina's running game, Maryland held the Tar Heels to 1 of 11 on third-down conversions. Offensively, the Terps owned the football for 40:29, produced 27 first downs and rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns.

Maybe more importantly, Maryland did not throw an interception and only turned the ball over once to a North Carolina defense among the national leaders in takeaways.

"The defense kept themselves off the field," Friedgen said. "I don't know how many three-and-outs they had, but they had a lot of key situations."

The game came down to the only three points of the second half - Egekeze's field goal. Both teams jockeyed for the opening to pull away, but failed to execute.

It came down to the final drive, with Turner moving the Terps in 10 plays covering 73 yards to kill 8:43 off the clock. The key play was a fourth-and-5 at the Carolina 32, when the quarterback scrambled for nine yards and a first down when all his receivers were covered.

"I guess that was the biggest play I ever made with my legs," Turner said. "I don't run that much, so I don't have to think about it too long. They were all covered and my clock was ticking in my head. Sometimes I think it's taking too long and I got to go."

It led to Maryland's - or at least Friedgen's - prayers being answered.

"It was an unbelievable game and a huge victory for us and our season," Friedgen said. "It sets up a big game next week with Florida State. That is going to be a huge game, probably one of the bigger games that we have played here."

Depending on the outcome of Saturday's Florida State-Boston College game, which finished after press time, the Terps will meet the nationally ranked Seminoles at home, possibly in a winner-take-all game for the Atlantic Division title and a berth in the ACC Championship game.

The only problem is, it's a night game.

"We play well at home against ranked teams," Fokou said. "We become giant killers and take them down. We got one more giant to go."

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