- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

The debut of Ralph Friedgen as Maryland's coach could not have gone much better.

In the 23-7 win over North Carolina on Saturday, the Terrapins' defense was stellar. Tailback Bruce Perry had a breakout day in the first start of his career, gaining 116 yards on 21 carries.

Punter Brooks Barnard had a career day with seven punts of 50 or more yards that left the Tar Heels regularly starting with lousy field position. And although the passing game was off-target, the offense made few mistakes and committed no turnovers.

"We didn't turn it over," Friedgen said after the Terps used three interceptions to aid their victory. "How many times did they turn it over? Who won the game? Don't beat yourself. We had [three] penalties. One was in the red zone, cost us three points. I was really irritated on that one holding in the red zone. They should cut your arm off or something for that."

Friedgen celebrated his first win as a coach by calling recruits and relaxing in his new home Saturday night. The 54-year-old received congratulatory calls from old friends before going to sleep early. He awoke to a far different scenario from the one he was dealing with just days ago.

Maryland was an underdog against North Carolina, and the victory provided a huge confidence boost for a program suffering from low self-esteem. In contrast, the Terps will be heavy favorites and must guard from overconfidence when Eastern Michigan comes to Byrd Stadium on Saturday. The Eagles from Ypsilanti defeated Southeast Missouri State 16-12 in their season opener but are scheduled to be a tasty cupcake for the surging Terps this week.

"Last week I was worried about if they believed they could win," Friedgen said. "This is a different kind of challenge. There is going to be a lot of excitement on campus, and [reporters] are going to write nice things about us. All of a sudden, we are getting set up for a fall… . Our guys have to understand it's a short walk from the penthouse to the outhouse."

A crowd of more than 44,000 showed up for Friedgen's first game, and many long-suffering Maryland fans are starting to feel giddy about their team. The immediate future looks bright; the next four games are winnable. Eastern Michigan and Wake Forest (Sept. 22) even though the latter upset East Carolina on Saturday will be sizable underdogs to Maryland. The Terps play host to West Virginia, a 24-point loser to Boston College on Saturday, on Sept. 15. And Virginia, which was lucky to beat Richmond 17-16, comes to Byrd in the fifth week of the season Oct. 6.

The two biggest surprises out of the romp over the Tar Heels were Perry's emergence as a durable featured runner and the effectiveness of a rebuilt defensive line. Perry, a redshirt sophomore, missed practice time in the spring and August with shoulder and hamstring injuries before showing a previously unseen resiliency.

"His toughness is what impressed me the most," Friedgen said.

Nose guard Charles Hill anchored a solid defensive line that allowed just four rushing first downs. The defense allowed 161 yards rushing overall but only 84 after giving up a 77-yard touchdown run on North Carolina's first offensive play of the game.

Hill, a 6-foot-2, 292-pound senior, is the line's only returning starter. First-year starters Durrand Roundtree and C.J. Feldheim shored up the front of the 3-4 scheme, which regularly blitzed from five different positions behind the line. Linebacker Aaron Thompson had three sacks in the scheme, devised by defensive coordinator Gary Blackney, and safety Tyrone Stewart had a momentum-changing safety that gave Maryland the lead for good.

The strategy frazzled North Carolina quarterback Ronald Curry, who was yanked after a third-quarter interception and numerous rushed passes.

"I knew if we got enough hits on him, he would start throwing dirtballs," Thompson said.

The only signs of struggle came in the passing game, in which quarterback Shaun Hill missed several open receivers and watched a few other passes get dropped. Hill one of only three seniors starting on offense completed 10 of 26 passes for 86 yards but engineered three touchdown drives and tossed two touchdown passes with no interceptions.

"In the end, we decided to try to run more and knock them off the ball," said Friedgen, whose Terps ran for 145 yards, mainly up the middle, in the second half. "I told [the offensive line] at halftime that they would win the game for us in the fourth quarter."

Note Safety Tony Jackson suffered a sprained knee after being stepped on during the game. Friedgen said the knee is swollen but expects Jackson to practice today.


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