- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

No wonder Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is worried about a letdown at Wake Forest in today’s season finale. For the Terrapins, it’s a meaningless road game against a team needing a victory to reach a bowl.

“It is a trap,” he said. “This is a tougher situation than we faced last week because of the [lack of] focus because of the bowl bid. If [players] think we’re going to mail it in, it’s not going to happen.”

Maryland (8-3, 5-2 ACC) already is headed to the Gator Bowl on Jan.1 as conference runner-up, but Wake Forest (5-6, 3-4) needs a win to become bowl eligible. The Terrapins’ only incentive lies in reaching 10 wins for the third straight year.

“There’s enough momentum there to close this out right,” Friedgen said. “You want to be one of the great teams, not one of the average ones, and 9-3 is pretty good.”

Said offensive tackle Eric Dumas: “We don’t want to end the season where we started [with a loss].”

Maryland also is facing its second straight Senior Day on the road. It didn’t help N.C. State last week as the Terps took a 26-24 thriller in Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers’ farewell. Still, Wake Forest figures to have an emotional edge.

Yet the Terps have played enough emotional games that one more won’t really faze them — not after dodging bottles tossed by N.C. State fans while Maryland left the field. While there may be less than 20,000 at Groves Stadium, the Terps have learned not to let down before small road crowds after losing at Northern Illinois in overtime and escaping an upset bid by Eastern Michigan.

“We have a lot of veterans on this team, so we know how to handle this situation,” running back Bruce Perry said. “It was Seniors Day at N.C. State, and we knew we were going into a trap down there. It’s no different.”

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has played the country lawyer role over the past week, talking about possibly losing by 100 points. Friedgen knows that anyone talking poor usually has a pocket full of money.

“Jim has aces up his sleeve, trust me,” Friedgen said. “Tell him Coach Friedgen is not falling for that. He’ll be so fired up. … Next thing you know, we’re down 20 points. I’m sure they have something special for us. We’re just going to have to adjust on the run.”

Since beating Boston College and N.C. State in its first two games, Wake Forest has faded, particularly on defense. The Demon Deacons have allowed at least 42 points while losing three of their last four, including a 51-17 rout by Connecticut on Nov.15.

“Most people thought we’d be fortunate to win one or two games,” Grobe said, “but how the season has gone has been disappointing. We were 5-4 with three games left with a great chance to do something special this year and didn’t get it done.”

Perry will start for Maryland, with fellow running back Josh Allen (ankle) doubtful along with receiver Latrez Harrison (knee). Perry, the 2001 ACC offensive player of the year, has been plagued by injuries for the second straight season and has just 434 yards and three starts. He needs 54 yards to surpass Louis Carter as Maryland’s fifth-leading career rusher (2,265).

“I think I deserve to go out the way a senior should,” he said. “It’s going to be an ending to a long, long, long career. Am I looking forward to it? Probably not, but we made it to the Gator Bowl, and I’m excited about that.”

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