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Florida International seeks finishing touch vs. Terps

September 25, 2010

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Florida International has showed this season that it can compete against the big boys.

Winning has proven to be far more difficult.

In the opener, FIU held visiting Rutgers to eight first downs and led in the fourth quarter before falling 19-14. That wasn't nearly as frustrating as last week's game at Texas A&M, when the Golden Panthers yielded 21 straight fourth-quarter points in a 27-20 defeat.

There was little doubt what the focus was at practice heading into Saturday's game at Maryland.

"This whole week has been about finishing," standout center Brad Serini said. "That's what we need to do."

If the Golden Panthers are counting on Maryland (2-1) being overconfident, they're wrong. Even though the Terrapins easily handled FIU in 2007 and realize they're playing at home against a winless team from the Sun Belt Conference, they aren't taking this game lightly.

"They've hung in there with some pretty good teams, Rutgers and Texas A&M," Terps linebacker Alex Wujciak said. "We watched some film on them, and they are definitely better than people think."

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Perhaps only the oddsmakers remain unconvinced, installing Maryland as a 10- to 12-point favorite. But considering that the Terrapins lost at home to Sun Belt member Middle Tennessee State last year and is coming off a 31-17 defeat at West Virginia, this game has the makings of a tight one.

"The last time we went down there was my freshmen year, and they played us tough then," Maryland receiver Adrian Cannon said. "They have a team full of great athletes and they are fast, strong and physical. You can't overlook any opponent, especially this team. Because if you do, they will beat you and they will beat you bad."

Maryland's hobbled quarterback tandem could be on the move Saturday against an aggressive defense that last week had four interceptions and six sacks. Starter Jamarr Robinson has a sore right shoulder and backup Danny O'Brien has been nursing a high ankle sprain, but both are expected to play.

Both will operate behind a makeshift line that is without left tackle Justin Gilbert, who sustained a season-ending knee injury last week at West Virginia.

Against the Mountaineers, Maryland fell behind 28-0 and came back to make it respectable behind Robinson, who threw touchdown passes of 60 and 80 yards to Torrey Smith. The surge proved the Terrapins have what it takes to rebound in the second half -- a trait that could come in handy against FIU.

The Golden Panthers, however, intend to correct the flaw that ruined two otherwise uplifting performances against Rutgers and Texas A&M.

"What sticks in our mind is of course you always want to get the victory. That's at the forefront," FIU coach Mario Cristobal said. "But what we all see is a team that is legitmately coming closer to becoming a very solid, much improved Division I football team. There's plenty of things we've taken from these last two football games that are very positive."

Said Serini: "We definitely shocked a lot of people in the first two games. Now we've just got to learn how to finish them off."

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