- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2008

Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen reminded his team daily last week of the opportunities available and the pitfalls. He reiterated his remarks during the pregame meal just hours before the Terrapins met Virginia on Saturday night.

After four decades in the profession, he presumably knows what he’s talking about. Trouble is, it’s hard to tell sometimes if anyone’s listening.

Following a listless 31-0 loss to the Cavaliers, Friedgen wondered aloud just how much and how often his message is reaching an erratic team.

It wasn’t the first time Friedgen had pondered the topic while assessing the Terps (4-2, 1-1 ACC), who enter a bye week at what could be either the perfect time or a moment when what they need is another game as quickly as possible.

It’s difficult to tell, and that is just part of the maddening inability to read a team filled with veteran players who admit they have heard Friedgen’s sermons about consistency for four or five years.

“The week before, they did listen [before a victory at Clemson],” Friedgen said Sunday. “I try to think back. I try to call it like it is. I try to think what I could have done better to prepare them. I’m just having trouble thinking of what else I could have done.”

No one seems more flustered than Friedgen, who noted the possibility or outright reality that his message might not be seeping through in the wake of three games in the last month.

The concept first popped up after the 24-14 loss at Middle Tennessee on Sept. 6.

“When you come up and you’re not focused and you know you’re going into a situation where they’re going to play their best games, that’s what I was concerned about,” Friedgen said. “I just wasn’t able to get our guys to understand that, and that’s my fault.”

A week later, Maryland rebounded to upend California. The performance left Friedgen pleased, as well as in a mood to philosophize.

“Hopefully, they listen,” he said. “I was thinking about this as I laid awake at night. I don’t know if it’s you guys, the media. There’s more media around. I wonder if you have a bigger impact on my players than I do. I don’t know. It just seems tougher these days.”

Then came Saturday’s anemic setback against a Virginia team that entered near the bottom nationally in several offensive categories but still marched up and down the field with ease. Maryland’s offense wasn’t much better, failing to take a snap inside the Virginia 30.

“It was kind of what I was worried about coming down here,” Friedgen said. “I just don’t seem to be reaching these guys.”

Those are not the most soothing words to hear from a coach, but there’s a chance Friedgen would face those sorts of questions anyway after the Terps suffered their worst margin of defeat in nearly four years.

While Friedgen accepted accountability, there probably is plenty to spread around what was supposed to be a mature roster. Beyond assigning blame, it might be more interesting to see whether the coach can get through to his players with any consistency.

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