- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

The Maryland football team's weekend went from good to great yesterday when it became nationally ranked for the first time in six years. The Terrapins are No. 25 in both the Associated Press poll and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.
The last time Maryland was ranked was Sept. 24, 1995, when it was rated 17th by the AP. The Terps received the honors after improving to 4-0 on Saturday with a 32-20 win over West Virginia.
"I am happy for the recognition for the program and that people are saying we are making progress," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I think it is kind of premature. It's nice for the program. If we continue to win, [rankings] will take care of themselves. I don't put too much stock in it right now."
The Terps have been turning heads under the first-year coach and former Georgia Tech coordinator. Maryland is tied with Virginia atop the ACC with a 2-0 conference record, and the Cavaliers (3-1 overall) will visit College Park on Saturday in a showdown for the ACC's top spot. Maryland has not had a winning season since 1995 and has not won more than six games since 1985, when Friedgen was an Maryland assistant under Bobby Ross. The Terps have the longest bowl drought in the ACC; their last postseason appearance came in 1990.
The Terps, whose record equaled their best in seven seasons, face the Cavaliers with a chance to start 5-0 for the first time since 1978.
"What you'd like to be is consistently in the Top 20," Friedgen said. "That's the goal I set for the program."
Maryland has used a strong defense and powerful running attack to anchor its 4-0 start. The Terps have forced 13 turnovers, including six against the Mountaineers, and given the ball away just three times. Tailback Bruce Perry rushed for 153 yards Saturday and is the nation's leading rusher at 169.5 a game.
Though scheduling has played a part in the early season surge, there is no doubt Friedgen has played a big role in the Terps' current success.
Friedgen, a 1969 graduate of Maryland, has instilled a sense of credibility with his presence and straightforward approach two things that were missing under former coach Ron Vanderlinden. Friedgen doesn't build a player up to provide a false sense of confidence; he speaks the truth, even when it's painful. He treats the players like adults and wants them to improve by overcoming adversity, such as personal challenges from coaches.
The coach doesn't accept excuses or believe in moral victories, believing "you learn a lot more from winning than losing." For instance, the 54-year-old Friedgen was asked about kicker Vedad Siljkovic's missed extra point against West Virginia. His simple analysis: "He just choked."
Perry, for one, has used the blunt honesty as motivation. Friedgen stated his preference for big, durable backs and said the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Perry doesn't fit the mold. The coach essentially wrote him off after nagging injuries limited him in the preseason. But Perry has become surprisingly tough, running for more than 100 yards each game this season, including 276 against Wake Forest.
"You have to play hurt," said Perry, who credits Friedgen for holding him accountable. "You have to play banged up. It's all part of the game."
Friedgen doesn't just limit his critiques to his players. The 32-year coaching veteran took a swipe at himself after the team failed to score from West Virginia's 1-yard line in the final moments of the first half. With no timeouts, Friedgen called a naked bootleg for Hill, which resulted in a sack. There was not enough time to try a short field goal, and Hill wound up throwing an incomplete pass as the half expired.
He later recounted his halftime speech. "That was me," he told the players. "It's my fault. It didn't have anything to do with them. I screw up, too. Let's go out and see if we can overcome bad coaching."
Notes Senior wide receiver Daryl Whitmer suffered a sprained knee Saturday and is expected to be out 2-to-4 weeks… .Sophomore cornerback Andrew Smith, who was cleared on all counts of robbery and assault in a case tried last week, is expected to practice today. Linebacker Marlon Moye-Moore was convicted of second-degree assault in the same case stemming from an altercation in a Hyattsville bar in February. The senior, who was the team's second-leading tackler last season, likely will be allowed to rejoin the team since he was convicted of a misdemeanor and not a felony. Friedgen hopes to have a final decision on Moye-Moore's status today.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide