- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

Maryland’s biggest upset in 21 years has the Terrapins “believing” they are in bowl contention again.

A week after the Terps dropped a game under .500, they bounced back with a 20-17 victory over then-No.5 Florida State on Saturday at Byrd Stadium and have fans and players thinking about another bowl game.

Maryland (4-4, 2-3 ACC) travels to No.12 Virginia (6-1, 3-1) on Saturday and No. 18 Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1) on Nov.17 before it ends its season at home against Wake Forest (4-4, 1-4) on Nov.27. Two wins would help the Terps reach their fourth straight bowl game, but their defeat of a top-five team for the first since 1983 has coach Ralph Friedgen’s “I believe” campaign — T-shirts, signs and pledge cards — building momentum.

“The way I figure it, we win the next three I’m 7-4,” said Friedgen, whose team had not beaten Florida State in 14 tries. “I figure that would be very bowl eligible and we’d be pretty hot at that time, but that’s a big task ahead. Let’s get to 5-4 before we get to 7-4. Like I said before, we could win them all or lose them all.”

Friedgen, a devout Catholic, carries a rosary in his pocket when he’s on the sideline. He prays daily and the coach leaned on his faith in the waning minutes of Saturday’s game when Florida State missed a tying field goal with 4:40 remaining.

“I really prayed hard because I wanted these kids to feel what it’s like to win this kind of game,” said Friedgen, his eyes welling with tears. “They’ve had such disappointments. I really didn’t think I was reaching them. That was getting frustrating to me. The way we came back and responded makes all the difference in the world.”

Friedgen finally tapped into his young team’s emotion. After a week of chanting “I believe” that included a signed pledge and T-shirts, Friedgen finally saw confidence in players’ eyes at halftime when Maryland led the Seminoles 13-3.

“I told them they need to finish it,” Friedgen said. “We’re not in it for a moral victory. You need to walk off that field with a win. I didn’t want them to just be happy to be close. I wanted them to finish the deal. I said play another 30 minutes like this and you’ll win.”

A remarkable offensive turnaround against the ACC’s top run defense helped end the Terps’ three-game losing streak. The Terps’ 387 yards Saturday were more yards than in their last three games combined. Quarterback Joel Statham passed for 333 yards to end any talk of a quarterback controversy and kicker Nick Novak broke a modest slump with field goals of 43 and 45 yards.

“The first field goal Nick made was huge because the last three weeks he missed that field goal,” Friedgen said.

The Terps receivers finally delivered downfield plays, something that had been missing for most of the season. Tight end Vernon Davis gained 99 yards on six catches to lead seven Terps with receptions. Two receivers delivered downfield blocks to create running back Josh Allen’s 72-yard touchdown reception.

“I told them I wanted them to play aggressively,” Friedgen said. “I didn’t want them to just be happy to catch the ball and fall down and think the job was done. I wanted them to think of scoring with the ball, making first downs, attacking these guys. If we get beat, we get beat, but at least we’re going right after them. … They were the key really. They made some plays.”

Regardless of the Terps’ finish, a win over Florida State ensured a satisfying finish for many seniors who already had won 34 games, two bowls and an ACC championship.

“No matter what, you can’t say this season was a failure,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. “Every year with coach Friedgen we’ve made a step to be a perennial power. This is a huge step to improving the program no matter the final record.”

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