- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

The saying goes that it is better to be lucky than good. In the case of the Maryland football team, it is even better to be both.
The 22nd-ranked Terrapins have taken advantage of a home-heavy schedule and no ranked opponents to open the season with a 5-0 record for the first time since 1978. With wins over North Carolina, Wake Forest and Virginia, the Terps are in sole possession of first place in the ACC with a 3-0 record. They have shown resilience, maturity and a newfound focus. A solid defense has helped build confidence, and the rest of the team has followed suit.
On Saturday, the Terps again showed they are a different team under first-year coach Ralph Friedgen. They ended a nine-game losing streak against Virginia with a 41-21 victory as they scored the game's final 17 points. Tailback Bruce Perry ran for 143 yards and continues to lead the nation with a 164.2 yard rushing average.
The previously struggling special teams are the latest unit to sparkle. Curtis Williams blocked a punt for a touchdown and teammate E.J. Henderson blocked a field goal try. Freshman kicker Nick Novak, who made just two of seven field goals before Virginia, made two of three against the Cavaliers.
And yet, still there are questions about how good this team is.
Four of Maryland's games have been at Byrd Stadium. And many answers will come Thursday night when the Terps play in a hostile environment at No. 15 Georgia Tech (4-1, 1-1 ACC). The game will be nationally televised game on ESPN as Friedgen returns to Atlanta, where he spent the past four seasons as the Yellow Jackets' offensive coordinator.
"It's a special week because we want Georgia Tech," said Terps wide out Guilian Gary, the team's leading receiver with 359 yards on 25 receptions. "National TV is good and that it is a ranked opponent. [Friedgen] is going back to Tech. That's big. Nothing outshines that."
The Tech test starts the most difficult portion of the Terps' schedule. The Terps play three of the final six games on the road, with trips to Georgia Tech, No.14 Florida State and N.C. State, while 16th-ranked Clemson visits Byrd.
The Terps need only one victory to clinch their first winning season since 1995 and become bowl eligible. With winless Duke and Division I-A newcomer Troy State coming to College Park, Maryland's first trip to a bowl since 1990 appears imminent. Any bowl game invitation will be an accomplishment, but the Terps have set their sights higher and that quest starts with stalling the Ramblin' Wreck.
"They're at the level we want to be," Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill said. "In order to do that, we have to beat them."
The play of Hill will go a long way in determining whether Maryland can remain ranked and finish near the top of the ACC. The senior has struggled in Friedgen's complex system. He's played smart and made few mistakes, but the offense will need to produce when it plays high-octane clubs like Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State.
"I think he is still in the developmental stage," Friedgen said. "For us to really achieve, I think Shaun has to come on these last six weeks."
Friedgen said Hill probably had his best game of the season on Saturday. Despite a first-quarter interception and a third-quarter fumble, Hill came back and led the team to three fourth-quarter scores. Hill was 22 of 35 for 237 yards and two touchdowns as the offense utilized the new wrinkle of short passes to Perry in order to get him free in the open field.
Hill ran for 47 yards on 16 carries, rushed for a touchdown and did a strong job drawing the defense on the option which enabled him to make last-second pitches to Perry that led to big gains. After Virginia cut Maryland's lead to 24-21, Hill led a 14-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a touchdown pass to Jafar Williams on third-and-goal.
"Shaun made some adjustments in the game that allowed him to make big plays later on," Friedgen said. "That tells me he's starting to understand the whole system. A couple of those adjustments, he came and said, 'I see this. Can I do this?' That was refreshing and shows we're making progress."
Just how much progress he and the whole program has made under Friedgen will be on display in a mere three days.
Notes
Friedgen said the Terps will probably be without starting left guard Todd Wike (sprained foot) Thursday. If that's the case, redshirt freshman Kyle Schmitt (6-foot-5, 298 pounds) will make his first start. Cornerback Curome Cox (shoulder) is also expected to miss the game. Tailback Chad Killian, who missed Saturday's game with nerve damage in his shoulder, could return. Linebacker Henderson will start in Atlanta. He was disciplined after being cited for a DWI last week and did not start on Saturday.


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