Terps get set to face the heat

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Darrius Heyward-Bey coolly sauntered into Maryland’s offensive line meeting room for an interview this week, a 32-ounce bottle of orange Gatorade in tow.

Heyward-Bey is a not so secret weapon for the Terrapins, a quick wideout off to a fine start in his sophomore year. And in the days leading up to Maryland’s visit tonight to Florida International, the sports drink was a more common sight around the team house than footballs or medical tape.

“Orange is my favorite color,” Heyward-Bey said. “I take orange every time I get the chance.”

He had no shortage of opportunities this week.

Coach Ralph Friedgen was fretting about the visit to the Orange Bowl in Miami early last month, and he still is. The fact that the Golden Panthers were coming off an 0-12 season didn’t matter, nor does their 59-0 loss to Penn State in last week’s season opener.

The presence of two freshmen atop Florida International’s depth chart at quarterback does not diminish the concern either.

No matter what, the Terps (1-0) will have to beat the heat as well as Florida International. Understandably, Friedgen is wondering just how well his team will adapt to the subtropical conditions common in South Florida during late summer.

He’ll find out soon enough. Tonight’s forecast calls for temperatures in the low 90s and humidity above 60 percent.

“We’ve had a good week to be prepared for it,” Friedgen said as he paused from chugging his own lemon-lime sports drink. “It’s probably the warmest it’s been the whole camp. But it’ll be warmer down there.”

It was humid enough in College Park last weekend for the weather to be a mild factor in the Terps’ 31-14 victory over Villanova. Quarterback Jordan Steffy and tackle Scott Burley were among those who cramped up, and those nuisances probably helped get the attention of other players this week.

A few feet from Heyward-Bey, cornerback Isaiah Gardner talked with a reporter while cradling two Gatorade bottles. Heyward-Bey said he made sure he had a 64-ounce bottle in his room to consume each night, and Friedgen said each player was supposed to drink one large bottle each day.

Friedgen wonders how much the Terps are actually heeding his warnings, but the message seems to have seeped through to most players.

“You want to stay hydrated all week,” Heyward-Bey said. “You don’t want to drink a lot of fluids the night before a game. You want to do it two or three days in advance because all that stuff stays in your body. That’s the key.”

There are other matters for the Terps to attend to, notably escaping any serious injuries with No. 3 West Virginia arriving at Byrd Stadium on Thursday. It’s especially true of the suddenly thin quarterback position, where Friedgen hopes he isn’t forced to go past backup Chris Turner now that Josh Portis is ineligible after violating the school’s code of academic integrity.

Keeping both guys healthy is a priority. Friedgen would like to find a chance for Turner to play with the starting offensive line, if only because the Terps’ depth issues would nearly qualify Turner for hazard pay if he was in with a lineup composed entirely of backups.

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