- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

The alarm clock went off on Maryland's dream football season last week. Now the 15th-ranked Terrapins hope to return to their previous state of fantasy.
It has been a difficult week for the Terps, who struggled to shake off the effects of last Saturday's 52-31 loss to 14th-ranked Florida State. By winning, Maryland likely would have jumped to a top-5 ranking and been considered a national title threat. When the game was tied early in the fourth quarter, all that was within the Terps' reach; it just wasn't within their grasp.
"We can't sit here and worry about what happened to Florida State," Maryland wide receiver Guilian Gary said. "We have to let that one go."
That hasn't been easy during preparations for unheralded Troy State today at Byrd Stadium, where the Terps will try to become the first Maryland team to go 8-1 since 1978. The Terps are more than a three-touchdown favorite against the independent Trojans , who are 4-3 in their first Division I season. However, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said Tuesday his team was in a collective funk, and matters weren't much better a day later.
"They were just kind of going through the deal," said Friedgen, who intimated the Terps lacked their usual crispness and appeared tired. "I don't like it."
Troy State doesn't look as tough as Florida State or Maryland's next foe, Clemson. However, the Trojans are better than previous walkover opponents Eastern Michigan and Duke. Troy State upset Mississippi State earlier this season, played top-ranked Miami tough for a half in a 38-7 loss and didn't embarrass itself in a 42-14 defeat by No. 2 Nebraska.
Still, if Maryland plays anywhere near the level of its first seven victories, this will be a get-well card for the hurting Terps.
"[An undefeated season] wasn't a goal," Maryland nose guard Charles Hill said. "As the season wore on, it was more and more attainable. Unfortunately, we lost. But we can still get 10 wins, and that's a great season."
The Terps will seek to rectify some problems, most notably at cornerback, and build on an evolving offense that is now a team strength.
Sophomore cornerback Dennard Wilson was exploited regularly by the Seminoles. Maryland stayed in one-on-one coverage and loaded the box to stop the run, but Wilson, a fill-in starter, proved no match for the speedy, athletic receivers and surprisingly accurate quarterback Chris Rix.
"You just have to work on your mistakes and try to learn from them," said Friedgen, who was encouraged by Wilson's resilience in practice this week. "You just go back to work. I don't see any other way to approach it."
Wilson will start again because Tony Okanlawon is out indefinitely with an undisclosed medical condition. The Terps will face a balanced attack from Troy State, led by four-year starting quarterback Brock Nutter and wide receiver Heyward Skipper, who averages 82.3 yards receiving.
The Maryland offense will seek to remain in high gear after scoring 31 points, its most in 12 meetings with Florida State. Quarterback Shaun Hill led two sustained drives for touchdowns, including one that tied the game in the fourth quarter.
"We had two 80-yard drives," said Friedgen, who noted that Hill now is going to a third or fourth read, something he began a week earlier in a 59-7 thrashing of Duke. "[Florida State] probably doesn't give up five or six of those in a season. That wasn't our problem. We probably would have had more if we don't turn the ball over four times."
Those rare turnovers two interceptions, two lost fumbles were uncharacteristic of a Maryland team that came into last week among the national leaders in turnover margin. Holding onto the ball will be a major factor in whether the Terps can turn an already special season into a great one. Another key will be putting a demoralizing defeat behind them.
"We still have an opportunity to win a conference championship and get to 10-1," Friedgen said. "I know this: If we do that, we will be one of the special teams at this school because you can't win 10 unless you win eight."
Note No. 22 North Carolina failed in its attempt to tie Maryland for the ACC lead Thursday when it lost to 23rd-ranked Georgia Tech 28-21. The Terps (5-1) and Florida State (4-1) are the only teams with one loss in the league. The Seminoles play at Clemson in this afternoon.


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