- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

It was the Kickoff Classic, the last in a series, conveniently enough.
To rise to the level of a classic, two college football teams are required.
The Terps picked a bad time to be absent, unexcused as it was.
There goes the national ranking and possibly the season.
Terps coach Ralph Friedgen has lost weight since the Orange Bowl, and perhaps his strength.
"We're better than we showed," he said.
That is fair enough after the Terps elected to be a no-show.
Friedgen threw everything but a third quarterback at the Fighting Irish, and he made enough changes there to add up to three.
A third quarterback would have fared no worse than the first the two, Scott McBrien and Chris Kelley, and then McBrien again.
As it turned out, one of their favorite targets was Shane Walton, the second-leading receiver for the Terps. Walton caught two fewer passes than the five to Jafar Williams, which might have been acceptable if it weren't for Walton's Notre Dame uniform and background in soccer.
Interceptions are bad enough, but three by a recovering soccer player is cause to panic, if not play musical chairs with the quarterback position.
The Terps barely made an impression around the Notre Dame defense, just 133 yards on offense.
"Notre Dame has a good defense, but our kids just lost their poise," Friedgen said.
The Terps probably noticed the hostility of the 72,903 who descended on the Jimmy Hoffa Burial Grounds. It amounted to homefield advantage for the Fighting Irish and the benefit of the doubt from the referees.
The Fighting Irish appeared to lose the football a lot, only to be granted a do-over each time by those in charge. A couple of times, a Notre Dame player lost the football after being hit by a stiff breeze, and a Maryland player recovered it before the referees performed an autopsy on the football and ruled it dead. Dead footballs tell no tales, the opposite of television replays.
Not that a couple of loose footballs would have altered the outcome of the game, just the details. Walton probably would have caught at least another pass or two from the Terps quarterbacks. Near the end of the game, out of consideration to them, Walton took to raising his hand to let them know when he was open.
ABC provided the exposure as well as the history lesson: Notre Dame's, college football's and America's. Notre Dame used to be somebody in college football, and aims to be somebody again behind Tyrone Willingham, a black coach who, believe it or not, was a black coach at Stanford and is expected to remain a black coach as long as he is in charge of the Fighting Irish.
The breaking of a barrier is expected to increase the fight in the poor Fighting Irish, as guilty in name as the Redskins. The Irish drink and fight too much, apparently, and their football team is coming off a 5-6 season and the five-day tenure of George O'Leary, one of the literary giants of college football.
O'Leary played football at Northern Virginia Community College, then joined the Peace Corps and ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, before leading the Fighting Irish to a 0-0 record.
The Irish showed no effect of an offseason hangover against the Terps, only a desire to kick field goals and let Walton moonlight as a wide receiver of the opponent.
The initial step was encouraging enough, the shutout the exclamation point. It was outlined against a dark August sky, not the "blue, gray October sky" of lore, the distinction unimportant among the desperate faithful.
Bob Davie, Willingham's predecessor by way of O'Leary's cup of coffee, managed only one shutout in five seasons, if you count Notre Dame's game with Navy in 1998.
If the game marked an attempt by Notre Dame to restore order in college football, the Terps are obligated to pick up the pieces.
The Terps have been picked to finish no higher than third or fourth in the ACC, which looks charitable after the first inspection.


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