- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 31, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. It has been a summer of sequels "Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones," "Men in Black II," "Austin Powers in Goldmember." Tonight, "Ralph's Renaissance: After the Orange" debuts at Giants Stadium.

The first showing of Maryland's anticipated follow-up to last season's 10-2 record, ACC title and Orange Bowl appearance will come against Notre Dame, which the 21st-ranked Terrapins face in the 20th and final Kickoff Classic to start Ralph Friedgen's second season as coach.

"It's important to get a good win early against a quality team like Notre Dame," said Terps receiver Jafar Williams, recalling last season's opener against North Carolina, which started a seven-game winning streak. "It would really help the confidence of this team."

The game marks the debut of Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham, who is being asked to restore the program's luster after the Fighting Irish had a 5-6 record last season.

Maryland will have new players in several key positions.

Junior Scott McBrien or sophomore Chris Kelley will start at quarterback. McBrien is expected to get the call because he played at West Virginia before transferring to Maryland last summer. Kelley is coming back from major knee surgery less than four months ago.

Sophomore Jason Crawford and freshman Mario Merrills will split time at tailback while 2001 ACC offensive player of the year Bruce Perry recovers from a torn groin muscle.

The kicking game could prove crucial if it rains as predicted tomorrow. Maryland has the advantage with preseason All-American punter Brooks Barnard and kicker Nick Novak.

The Terps' top defender, E.J. Henderson, will be critical in what is likely to be a defensive battle. Henderson, who was an All-American linebacker and the conference player of the year last season, will do his first extensive hitting since undergoing back surgery in April.

"This is the most nerves I've had since playing at Florida State as a freshman," said Henderson, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior. "The best thing is to just push [the injury] out of my mind. That's the only way I can come out and really just play my game."

The biggest question on defense is the line, where sophomore Randy Starks will be asked to fill the void left by Charles Hill.

The Irish are without last season's top rusher, Julius Jones, who left school because of academics. Sophomore Ryan Grant will get his first start.

The key to shutting down the Irish is to force quarterback Carlyle Holiday to throw. The 6-3, 214-pound junior was the team's second-leading rusher last season with 666 yards, including three 100-yard games. Holiday is a streaky passer who completed 51 percent last season for 784 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions.

"Traditionally, [Willinghams Stanford teams] haven't run a lot of options, but I'm sure they will with this guy," Friedgen said. "He's a big strong kid with great speed."

Notre Dame has a veteran-laden defense that will try to rattle the Terps' inexperienced backfield.

"This is a very, very young team that I'm hoping will get better with each game," said Friedgen, who starts five seniors. "Because we are young, we'll make some mistakes. We're going to have to overcome them. Hopefully, we won't put the ball on the ground. Those are killing mistakes. Mental mistakes, missed assignments you can recover from that. You can't turn the ball over and expect to win. You can't have a lot of penalties and expect to win."

Not if you want the sequel to be as compelling as the original.

"Last year, we were more uncertain about what to expect," Maryland cornerback Curome Cox said. "Now, it's not a cockiness but just a swagger one has about themselves. We know our potential now. Confidence is dangerous."

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