- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2004

Although a week off might refresh Maryland for its final push toward a bowl bid, the season’s second bye has left the Terrapins even more eager to play No.16 Virginia Tech on Nov.18.

“Four days off let us clear our minds for what’s a two-game season, basically,” center Kyle Schmitt said yesterday. “The stretch between games is weird, but it doesn’t hurt. We don’t have the talent to just win games [automatically]. We have to enter with the right mind-set.”

The Terps (4-5, 2-4 ACC) must beat Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-1) and Wake Forest (4-4, 1-4) on Nov.27 to become bowl eligible. Otherwise, Maryland will finish with a losing record and no postseason bid for the first time since coach Ralph Friedgen’s 2001 arrival.

Several injured players returned yesterday for the Terps, who practiced for the first time since losing to No.10 Virginia 16-0 Saturday. The entire offensive line practiced for the first time since the opening week and receiver Steve Suter (hamstring) returned after a one-game absence. Several others were upgraded while a few were limited by the flu.

Shaking off the most decisive loss of the season wasn’t easy. Maybe the bye week with lighter practices will recharge dampened spirits.



“[The bye] is disruptive, but after last week’s display we absolutely need this week to regroup,” offensive tackle Lou Lombardo said. “It will also let us relax and heal up, feel a little better.”

Some players would have preferred playing tomorrow, though.

“Bye weeks are the worst,” safety Chris Kelley said. “You have to sit around and wait.”

Friedgen is spending some time on fundamentals but mostly is trying to mentally rebuild players to the peak they attained in a 20-17 victory over No.5 Florida State on Oct.30.

“We’ve gone through such a high and a low that we have to get ourselves ready to play again and get to where we were two weeks ago,” he said.

Skyscrapers

Punter Adam Podlesh is threatening the team record for single-season average. With two games remaining, Podlesh’s 44.5-yard average is two-tenths of a yard less than Brooks Barnard’s 2000 mark. He leads the ACC and is 10th nationally after spending one game at No. 1.

Podlesh erased Barnard’s freshman mark last year by averaging 42.3, the Terps’ fifth best overall mark.

“When I first came here, it was intimidating because he was a great punter that people didn’t want him to leave,” Podlesh said. “They didn’t know what I could do, but I tried to live up to him.”

Podlesh locks his knee to gain leg speed. However, he sometimes drops the ball in the middle of his body rather than over his right foot to cause shanks. Podlesh reviews his daily practice on tape, but Friedgen reminded him of proper mechanics before last year’s Wake Forest game after his pregame efforts were terrible.

“I said, ‘Adam, what are you doing? Your leg is crossing over,’ and he’s crying, ‘I know, I know. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I can’t kick,’ ” Friedgen said. “I said, ‘Relax, we’re playing the game here in five minutes.’ He kicked OK in the game.”

Podlesh has been nominated for All-America consideration after earning All-ACC second-team honors last year as a Ray Guy Award semifinalist. He was named ACC specialist of the week after averaging 45.2 yards on 11 punts, including a career-long 70-yarder, against Georgia Tech on Oct. 9.

Extra points

Quarterback Joel Statham remains the starter after leaving in the fourth quarter against Virginia with a bruised collarbone. However, freshman Jordan Steffy might play in the final two weeks.

“Joel’s still the starter, but I see Jordan progressing right now,” Friedgen said. “He’s not acting like a freshman.” …

The Terps have closed practices for the next week for the first time this season. Because of extensive injuries, Maryland has limited some drills that Friedgen doesn’t want known.

Receiver JoJo Walker (concussion), linebacker Wesley Jefferson (high ankle sprain) and receiver Dan Melendez (hamstring) are questionable against Virginia Tech. Guard Brandon Nixon (knee), offensive tackle Scott Burley (knee), tight ends Rob Abiamiri (knee) and Jason Goode (ankle), running back Keon Lattimore (flu), defensive end Ricardo Dickerson (flu), Suter and Statham are probable against Virginia Tech.

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