- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good football players and teams make plays when they have to, which is exactly what Maryland did Saturday at Byrd Stadium. As a result, the maddeningly inconsistent Terrapins live to fight another day or two for a title in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

Remember these names: Ronnie Tyler, Chris Turner, Obi Egekeze and Jamari McCollough. They’re the reason Maryland slipped past North Carolina 17-15, thereby easing that burning sensation in coach Ralph Friedgen’s ample gut.

Freshman Tyler made a brilliant third-down catch of Turner’s pass as the wideout was belted by a defender, giving the Terps a first down in North Carolina territory on Maryland’s winning drive in the fourth quarter.

On fourth-and-5 from the 32, Turner scrambled 9 yards up the middle to keep it going. Then Egekeze delivered a 26-yard field goal, his second winner of the season and 14th conversion in his past 16 attempts, with just 1:42 remaining.

When cornerback McCullough picked off a pass by Cam Sexton as the Tar Heels struggled to get within field goal range, the Maryland faithful could celebrate.

Those four big plays were big enough to offset a lethargic earlier effort by the Terps’ offense that might have had coordinator James Franklin screaming, silently or otherwise.

So the Terps are 7-3 - somehow - and maintained two commendable streaks. No. 17 North Carolina was the fourth ranked team these guys have whipped. And they’ve rebounded from each defeat with a victory - a resiliency much to be admired.

“It’s been up and down [this season], but I have such affection for all these kids, and I’m very proud of them,” Friedgen said. “I was upset, very upset after last week [a 23-13 defeat by Virginia Tech on Nov. 6], and we emphasized that all week. … But if you get back in the saddle again [after a loss], you’ll be successful.”

For a while, this one looked awfully iffy because North Carolina literally was playing safety-first football.

On the first series, long snapper Andrew Schmitt rocketed the football a mile or two over the head of punter Travis Baltz, who pursued it into the end zone and was tackled by approximately half a dozen panting Tar Heels. This made it 2-0 Carolina and was a bad omen for the Terps. Though they rallied to take a brief lead at the start of the second quarter, the grim possibility of the safety being decisive lasted until the final minutes.

Fortunately, it wasn’t, and now the Terps can concentrate on beating Florida State next Saturday. Maryland would seem to have an excellent chance because the Seminoles are ranked No. 20 at present.

Why do the Terps play better against better teams after stinking up the joint against loud losers?

“I would like to tell you it’s great coaching,” said Friedgen, who drops more one-liners than most coaches.

Maryland-North Carolina is an old and honorable sporting rivalry that probably reached its football zenith in the late 1940s when Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, the Tar Heels’ All-American halfback, rambled against Jim Tatum’s early Terps teams.

North Carolina won or shared five ACC titles from 1963 to 1980 but later developed a serious case of football anemia. Predecessors Carl Torbush and John Bunting went 44-63 during a run of eight straight nonwinning seasons before Butch Davis arrived last year and set about restoring respectability.

Davis was just 4-8 in 2007, but this fall the 7-3 Tar Heels have been demonstrating enough muscle that Roy Williams’ powerhouse basketball team can’t command all the attention just yet.

Speaking of basketball, today’s coaching matchups between the Williams boys, Carolina’s Roy and Maryland’s Gary, are among the best in college hoops. Yet I prefer those of the 1970s and 1980s, when Maryland’s hyperactive Lefty Driesell was frequently frustrated by cool, calm and collected Dean Smith.

Tongue tucked firmly in cheek, Deano would irritate the Lefthander like a whole garden of poison ivy by employing every psychological gambit he could think of - with some help from the media, of course.

“Hey, Lefty,” a reporter might tease, “Dean says his team doesn’t belong on the court with yours talentwise.”

Scowling, Driesell would retort, “Well, you know, I don’t give a [rodent’s rump] what Dean says!”

Now, with both Maryland and North Carolina seeking to move onward and upward in football circles, the rivalry between the schools is more fascinating than ever. Heck, one of these years, Friedgen just might challenge Davis to a duel of insults at 10 paces.



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