- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001


The first game of the Ralph Friedgen era at Maryland ended with the coach rushing across the Byrd Stadium turf to the student section, hopping on a platform and leading the student body in a spirited rendition of the school's fight song.

His raspy singing voice was sweet music to the ears of long-suffering Maryland fans.

The teary-eyed coach was swept up in the excitement after the Terrapins soundly beat North Carolina 23-7 before a near-capacity crowd of 44,080. It gave Friedgen a win in his first game as a coach. Friedgen had served 32 seasons as an assistant coach before finally getting a top job.

"I have waited so long for this," said the 54-year-old Friedgen, a 1969 graduate of Maryland. "I always had the confidence I could do this. There were so many times I was disappointed. Yeah, it's special."

Friedgen, known as an offensive genius during his years as an assistant, was expected to bring a high-powered, innovative offense to College Park.

Ironically, the Terps beat the Tar Heels (0-2) with an overpowering defense that shut out Carolina for the final 58 minutes of the game, forced three interceptions and put the Terps ahead to stay on a safety by Tyrone Stewart.

Offensively, the Terps were mistake-free (no turnovers) and rode tailback Bruce Perry behind a penetrating line. Perry, a 5-foot-9 redshirt sophomore, finished with 116 yards on 21 carries as he regularly lowered his shoulder to pick up extra yards.

"People don't expect a small man to do something like that," said Perry, whose durability was questioned when he nursed minor injuries during camp. "When you do that, you earn respect."

The Terps, especially their swarming defense, earned plenty of that.

After Willie Parker's 77-yard touchdown run on North Carolina's first play from scrimmage, Maryland's defense allowed just 170 yards the rest of the afternoon. The unit took advantage of a tremendous game by punter Brooks Barnard, who kept the Tar Heels pinned deep in their territory. The junior All-American candidate averaged 50.4 yards on eight punts and seven times forced North Carolina to start drives at or inside their 20, including three at or inside the 10.

The game-changing play was a safety by reserve safety Stewart, who tackled Parker as he tried to get out of the end zone early in the second quarter. That gave Maryland a 9-7 lead.

"It was two points and a big momentum swing," Terps linebacker E.J. Henderson said. "We just kept going from there."

Henderson led a group that constantly pressured Tar Heels quarterback Ronald Curry, who was pulled midway through the third quarter after ineffective play. Maryland linebacker Aaron Thompson totaled three sacks, and nose guard Charles Hill led a rebuilt defensive line that routinely flustered Curry.

"We saw on film that if somebody got in his face, he would get shook up a little bit and throw some crazy passes," Henderson said.

The defense allowed North Carolina to convert just four of its 17 third-down attempts. Curry finished 6-for-12 for 61 yards and an interception, which forced his exit.

The Terps built the lead to 16-9 early in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to Scooter Monroe. That culminated a 10-play, 65-yard drive that saw Perry gain 37 hard-fought yards on seven carries. The drive followed Tony Jackson's interception of Tar Heels reserve quarterback Darian Durant.

Maryland iced the game on its next possession. Maryland got the ball back when linebacker Mike Whaley made a diving interception of a Durant pass that was deflected by cornerback Curome Cox.

Perry started the 54-yard march with runs of 21 and 12 yards, and backup tailback Marc Riley finished it with a 1-yard run to push the lead to 23-7.

One of the few bright spots for the Tar Heels was defensive end Julius Peppers, who recorded three sacks.

The Terps tied the game at 7-7 midway through the first quarter when quarterback Shaun Hill connected with Jafar Williams for a slant pass that resulted in a 20-yard touchdown. The score made amends for an awful beginning for the Terps. Parker (102 yards) ran through the left side untouched for the 77-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the Friedgen era.

"The first thing that went through my mind was what a way to open up," said Friedgen, who remained calm throughout the game. "But I wasn't going to get down on that team because I know what kind of people they are. I relayed that to the players, and there were about eight or 10 that said the same thing. That's what I liked."

The big man also enjoyed his impromptu jog to lead the victory chorus, which stirred the faithful who have longed for a winning team.

"It was a little out of character for me to go there and get on the platform and sing that fight song," said Friedgen, who served as a Maryland assistant coach under Bobby Ross (1982-86). "I'm going to do anything I can to put people in the stands. That's really not me. It's my school, and I'm very proud of it. I want the students involved, and I want the alumni and the lettermen and any fan of Maryland to know that the guy leading them has gone to this school, too. And that's special."

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