- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008

After more than two hours on a raw, wind-swept practice field, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen scurried to his office, bundled up from the cold but brimming with excitement.

There the Terrapins were, enjoying themselves Wednesday despite the elements. Everything was crisp, even with a little sparring included in the proceedings. Practice quickly can devolve into drudgery, so the session was a welcome sight for Friedgen.

Its presence in mid-November, deep into a long season, was a bonus. Its arrival less than a week after a stinging loss at Virginia Tech ensured it was worth savoring even more.

“There was an eagerness from everybody - from the scout team to the corners to everybody - to get out there and do our thing,” linebacker Dave Philistin said.

One of the Terps’ hidden traits during a season of pronounced swings is their remarkable ability to move on from the worst of times. Few moments were as bad for Maryland as its most recent performance, a 23-13 loss in a nationally televised game Nov. 6.

The Terps’ ability to leave a miserable night in the past should assist them Saturday when they welcome No. 17 North Carolina to Byrd Stadium for a crucial ACC test. Dating to late last season, Maryland has followed its past five losses with victories. Following a bowl loss to Oregon State with a defeat of Delaware in the season opener doesn’t mean much, but the Terps also have solved three ranked teams immediately after a setback in barely more than a year: Boston College last fall and California and Wake Forest this season.

“Granted, we do lose, but we don’t take it like some other teams where they get in a slump,” Philistin said. “We find a way to get back on our feet.”

All but one of the victories came at home; last year’s regular-season finale at N.C. State is the exception. Even taking into account fortuitous game sites, it remains impressive that the Terps (6-3, 3-2) are resilient enough to avoid doldrums.

“I think we have good kids that probably respond in adverse situations,” Friedgen said. “When things get going good, like most people, they can tend to relax. I don’t know; I wish I knew the answer. I’m glad they respond.”

The Terps still can lock up the ACC’s Atlantic Division with three victories to close out the season, though it isn’t an easy task. The Tar Heels (7-2, 3-2), today’s visitors, face an identical situation in the Coastal Division. For all Maryland has endured this season in ugly losses at Middle Tennessee and Virginia, it still enjoys a measure of control that fellow Atlantic Division contenders Florida State and Wake Forest would like at this juncture.

“I feel like it’s almost an accomplishment - but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” defensive tackle Travis Ivey said. “We see it, and we’re hungry for it.”

Ivey is one of several holdovers from the team of two years ago that frittered away a chance to play for a league title. The Terps lost their final two games and landed in the Champs Sports Bowl. The letdown remains fresh in the memories of several players, who seem mostly uninterested in playing a scenarios game.

Would a Wake Forest loss alleviate some pressure down the stretch? Sure, but the Terps don’t expect to receive much help.

“For us, we just have to win our games, and whatever happens, happens,” quarterback Chris Turner said. “At this point, who knows what’s going to happen?”

The Terps’ quirks suggest they might be on the cusp of an impressive outing. They have won five straight against ranked opponents - all while they were unranked - and Turner has never thrown an interception against a ranked team. Then there’s Maryland’s ability to shrug off defeats, a skill sure to be tested Saturday - and perhaps again before the season ends.

“We still control our own fate,” Friedgen said. “I told them we have to get better, we have to play better, we have to play more physical, we have to play smarter.

“There’s a lot of areas where we could be better, but the season’s far from over.”

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