- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 30, 2003

For the past week or so, there has been much hand-wringing about the lack of buzz over Maryland football and how people didn’t seem to be talking much about the Terps’ big-time football program.

Well, they’re buzzing now, but not the way that Maryland supporters had hoped.

They are talking, all right, about Maryland’s stunning 20-13 loss Thursday night to a team from DeKalb, Ill. No, not the Chicago Bears, but the Huskies of Northern Illinois.

That’s Northern Illinois, as in who?

That’s Northern Illinois, as in soft schedule, right?

The way the Terps were being touted going into this year, you might have thought they could beat the Bears. They were 15th in the nation — an unheard of place in the rankings for Maryland football in recent memory — unless, of course, you were counting from the bottom.

But some Maryland players felt it was a lack of respect for not being rated higher. They learned something about respect Thursday night.

“I guess they wanted it,” quarterback Scott McBrien said.

After being ahead 13-10 late in the fourth quarter, Maryland allowed the team from DeKalb to get back into the game with an 84-yard, 18-play drive that ended in a game-tying field goal.

And the team from DeKalb nearly won it at the end of regulation when it had another drive, this one 43 yards on seven plays, but the Terps blocked a field goal and the game went into overtime, where the quarterback who played for the team from DeKalb, someone named Josh Haldi, completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to someone named Dan Sheldon to give them a 20-13 lead.

Then someone from the team from DeKalb named Randee Drew intercepted a McBrien pass that bounced off Maryland receiver Latrez Harrison, and after that, you spell respect N-O-R-T-H-E-R-N- I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S.

Now the Terps have to travel to Tallahassee to play Florida State next Saturday, and a second loss there gives them no room for error the rest of the year if they have any hope of getting to a BCS bowl.

With N.C. State and Virginia still ahead, the room for error is slim and none. So maybe the best they could hope for is one more loss. Otherwise, they’ll have to settle for a Peach or a Tangerine or one of those lesser fruits for a bowl invite.

So, after the loss to the team from DeKalb, Ill., the buzz is disappointment. But is that fair?

Ralph Friedgen turned around the Maryland program so quickly — 21-5 in his first two years — that it’s easy to forget the abyss the program had fallen into over the previous 15 years, when it had two winning seasons.

Three years ago, if you said Maryland would go 8-4, Maryland fans would be elated.

To be fair, it would seem that to judge Maryland football, you have to keep the perspective of the past close to your heart.

I always felt this way about Maryland basketball as well, when Gary Williams’ critics would complain about his team’s being bounced from the NCAA tournament.

To have taken a program as low as Maryland basketball was, coming off the death of Len Bias and the NCAA sanctions from the Bob Wade tenure, to a perennial 20-win program with annual trips to the NCAA, should have been achievement enough for any Maryland fan. You couldn’t judge Terps basketball without the perspective of the past.

So maybe Maryland football losing to a team from DeKalb, Ill., should be kept in the proper perspective. Not too long ago, it would not have been an upset.

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