- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

Now that Maryland has flunked its first two major exams of the season, the Terrapins will face a pair of inferior opponents in hopes of preparing to pass the next big test.
The Terps (1-2) will be a 35-point favorite tonight when they play Eastern Michigan at Byrd Stadium. The Eagles (1-2) are an entree to next week's opponent, Division I-AA Wofford. The competitive portion of the schedule resumes Oct.5 at West Virginia.
"We have to be better than what we are right now," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, referring to the dysfunctional offense. "When a guy is open, we have to get the ball to him. The guy's got to catch it. When we make a block, a guy's got to make the right read and get in the right hole at the right time. We can't break down on assignments."
Tonight's game gives the Terps a chance to work on execution and gain confidence. Maryland pummeled Eastern Michigan 50-3 last season. The Mid-American Conference team lost to Michigan State 56-7 and Toledo 65-13 before sneaking past Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State 35-32 on a last-minute touchdown last week.
This figures to be a perfect time for Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien to gain experience in a low-pressure situation. The left-handed junior took target practice two weeks ago in a rout of Akron, in between panicking under constant pressure in one-sided losses to Notre Dame and Florida State.
"It's one thing to see the film and say you should have gone here or you should have gone there," said McBrien, who had four interceptions and directed no touchdown drives in the losses. "But once the bullets start flying, it's a whole different story. It all takes repetition."
Maryland's running game also should get untracked against a defense that allows 279.3 yards rushing a game. Chris Downs will start at tailback as Bruce Perry misses his fourth game due to a torn groin. Perry should make his season debut against Wofford
Downs has become a bright spot in a floundering offense. The fifth-year senior had 50 of the team's 57 yards rushing against Florida State, although he did lose a fumble. The 5-foot-8, 193-pound tailback had a 61-yard touchdown run called back in the 37-10 loss. Downs has made a dramatic turnaround from preseason afterthought to featured rusher.
"He was making a ton of mistakes and dropping the ball all over the place," running backs coach Mike Locksley said. "Now he knows where to go and who to block and what his reads are. And he is protecting the ball better. It gives him the opportunity to go out there and do what he does best run the football in the open field. He gives us the home run threat. He's one of the few guys who has the ability to make guys miss or make a play when it's not there."
The illegal block that nullified Downs' apparent touchdown is the type of mistake Maryland hopes to eliminate during the soft part of the schedule. The Terps self-destructed against Florida State because of six turnovers and had similar difficulties in the season-opening 22-0 loss to Notre Dame.
"We're missing," said Friedgen, who scaled back the playbook again this week. "If we throw a long pass and we just miss or we go up for the ball and [the other team] comes down with it, that's like Mark McGwire hitting a long, foul ball. Strike two. I want home runs. I want touchdowns."
The Terps should get them as they rebound from a demoralizing start to the season. And Maryland hopes the non-pressurized learning sessions will help prepare it for the final stretch of exams that will ultimately determine the season.
"I've been through it before under Coach… [Ron] Vanderlinden's staff," said fullback Chad Killian, a fifth-year senior. "We went through some off years. I see people get down and I have to pick them up. I just say, 'We have 10 games left. If we go 11-2, that's a pretty good season.' And there's no more Florida States out there. We just need to get our confidence back."


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