- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Maryland defeated North Carolina last season in Ralph Friedgen's first game as coach en route to seven straight wins, an ACC title and an Orange Bowl berth. It was the beginning of a new era for Terrapins football.
Now the trick is keeping it going. Like last year, the season begins with another dangerous opponent. Notre Dame awaits the Terps on Saturday in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
"It's a tremendously big game for our kids and our program," Ralph Friedgen said of the Terps' first meeting with the fabled Fighting Irish. "I like to play a tough game to start with because it gives you something to point to in the winter, spring and summer."
Maryland began game-week preparations today and will take the train to New Jersey on Thursday. Classes don't begin until after Labor Day, so Friedgen will conduct a "pro-style" camp this week. Players will sleep late, attend meetings and go through a single practice each afternoon. The lighter week is designed to help the Terps make an emotional and physical transition into the season after two weeks of grueling two-a-days in the heat.
However, the R&R; will give way to some intensity as the week progresses. After all, the Terps have been eyeing the Irish for eight months.
"We're more ready than we were last year," Maryland receiver Scooter Monroe said. "We're coming off [the 56-23 loss to Florida in the Orange Bowl]. We're excited to get back on the field because we really weren't happy with what happened down in Florida. So we need to come back and make a statement on national television."
The prime-time clash will feature a new starting quarterback and tailback for Maryland.
Friedgen said junior Scott McBrien and Chris Kelley are so close he could play both of them.
"You're not going to know [whos going to start] up to gameday," Friedgen said. "I may know."
Freshman Mario Merrills and sophomore Jason Crawford are vying for the tailback job because reigning ACC offensive player of the year Bruce Perry is out with a torn groin muscle.
"We got young tailbacks that are making mistakes," Friedgen said. "That's inevitable. I would like to know how our quarterbacks are going to play when they start firing live bullets."
Meanwhile, Tyrone Willingham will make his debut as Notre Dame's coach. Willingham takes over for Bob Davie, who was fired after last season, and ex-Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary, who was hired and then forced to resign because of false information on his resume. Willingham, who came from Stanford, takes over a team that was 5-6 last season and returns running quarterback Carlyle Holiday and seven defensive starters.
The Terps have debriefed offensive line coach Tom Brattan, who was on Willingham's staff in 1999 and 2000. Maryland coaches have scouted Notre Dame as far back as April, watching tape of the Fighting Irish and Stanford.
"You have to kind of look at what they did at Stanford and then kind of project what it's going to be with the personnel at Notre Dame," Friedgen said. "They are the same coordinators they had at Stanford. Defensively, they are not a lot different than what Notre Dame was last year. It's a little bit easier to project because it's the same guys playing the same positions."
The Irish have scoured video of last season and Friedgen's innovative offense. However, Notre Dame's biggest concern offensively will be finding a way to slow All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson.
In an unusual twist, Notre Dame believes a win over Maryland will help ease the disappointment of last season and put the program back into the national limelight. The Terps see the game as an opportunity to show last season wasn't a fluke. Any win over Notre Dame the hallowed program that produced Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen, Touchdown Jesus and 11 national championships is a quality win.
"It's something you can look back on the rest of your life and say, 'You played the Fighting Irish,'" said Friedgen, who is always looking for a way to help the school's recruiting and fund-raising. "For our program, [a win] would be a real shot in the arm."

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