- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

Maryland’s bid for a bowl has no margin for error. The Terrapins must upset ACC-leading Virginia Tech and defeat Wake Forest in the season finale.

“It’s really going to determine how much they want to go to a bowl game,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “They have to come back and play like they did against Florida State. If they have pride I would hope they’ll do that. I think they do. It’s what I would expect of them.”

Maryland (4-5, 2-4 ACC) and No. 16 Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-1) are both idle until their nationally-televised game on Nov.18. The Hokies can win the ACC in their first season by beating Maryland, No.10 Virginia (7-1, 4-1) and No.18 Miami (6-2, 3-2).

Friedgen can only hope the break recharges an offense that failed to produce 10 first downs for the fourth time in five games in Saturday’s 16-0 loss at Virginia. The Terps were flat in the wake of their 20-17 upset over Florida State on Oct.30. If Maryland fails to regroup in Blacksburg, Va., they’ll ensure a losing season and no bowl bid for the first time in Friedgen’s four seasons.

“Maybe they just need to get away from football for a while,” Friedgen said. “Right now, they [make me] want to get away from football after that. Nobody was home [against Virginia]. You’re talking to them. You try to motivate them. Nothing is registering. You are in trouble when that happens.

“I have been with teams that have had this before. It will probably happen again. I should feel lucky we didn’t get beat by more. We were running wrong routes. We made a lot of mental mistakes. When we had a chance to make a play, we drop the ball. The first interception, two receivers ran into each other. Even some of the bigger plays we had, we ran the wrong routes. I don’t know how we ended up making them.”

Before the season, Friedgen looked forward to facing Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. The longtime friends were assistants at The Citadel from 1973 to ‘78 and still vacation together. Now they’ll try to ruin the other’s postseason plans. Virginia Tech can reach a BCS bowl while Maryland would play in a modest bowl if it finished 6-5.

“It will be meaningful for Frank, but not as meaningful for me,” Friedgen said. “If there is anybody that has to be [in first place], I am glad it’s Frank.”

Maryland’s offense seemed to lose its confidence when it failed twice to gain less than a yard for a first down at Virginia’s 14 in the first quarter. Quarterback Joel Statham twice was stuffed at the line as Virginia regularly outplayed Maryland’s offensive line. Instead of grabbing an early lead, Maryland was shut out for the first time since the 2002 opener.

“That hurt real bad,” center Kyle Schmitt said. “We could’ve caught a lead and maybe go up by a touchdown. That was such an emotional setback. All of a sudden we were having trouble with our confidence. Even with last week [against Florida State] and how well we played, confidence is always a factor on the road.”

The Terps ran for just 51 yards against Virginia, but it was the passing game that continued to bedevil Maryland. Statham, who played much of the second half with a collarbone injury, completed just 12 of 23 for 163 yards and two interceptions before he was replaced late in the game. The Terps receivers continued their season-long penchant for dropped passes and ended the game with only four healthy wideouts.

Friedgen will concentrate more on the mental aspects of the game than the physical when the team resumes workouts Thursday. The Terps must regain their confidence quickly or the season will essentially end against the Hokies.

“I’m the guy that is supposed to have the answers,” Friedgen said, “but I really don’t on this one.”

• Staff writer Jon Siegel contributed to this article.

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