- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2008

Linebacker Dave Philistin maintained a careful watch once the Maryland football team returned from its weekend escape from College Park.

He detected coaches efficiently making adjustments and teammates quickly correcting their errors. Then he noticed players loitering a bit after practice, further tweaking their approaches. In a lot of ways, it was actually quite simple.

“That’s when I knew this week was going to be a good week,” Philistin said. “What can I say? All phases of the team played good.”

And then some. Philistin and his Terrapins teammates did what they typically do - confound expectations - while ripping No. 21 Wake Forest 26-0 on Saturday at Byrd Stadium.

Chris Turner threw for 321 yards and wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey had a career-high 11 catches and a touchdown as the Terps (5-2, 2-1 ACC) rebounded from an unsightly loss at Virginia by dealing the Demon Deacons (4-2, 2-1) their first shutout since 1998.

“It’s by far the best we played all year,” coach Ralph Friedgen said.

The whole time, it seemed just another part of Maryland’s weekly topsy-turvy, logic-defying script. The Bizarro Terps already have a few crazy swings in their past, so shredding the nation’s top pass efficiency defense with ease is hardly a surprising twist.

Still, it’s fair to call it an impressive one, and it was a start-to-finish flourish that permitted Maryland to climb into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead.

It started with an emphasis on Heyward-Bey, who went without a catch the last two games but was thrown to 17 times against Wake Forest. The junior caught a 9-yard touchdown from tailback Da’Rel Scott to cap the Terps’ opening drive, ensuring the defense played with a lead the entire day.

Coordinator Chris Cosh’s unit flustered quarterback Riley Skinner throughout, sacking the junior four times while limiting the Demon Deacons to a season-low 219 yards. Wake’s receivers did their part on the humbling afternoon, dropping about a half-dozen passes on a day the Demon Deacons couldn’t make it inside the 20.

Then there was a special teams contrast. Wake Forest’s reliable senior kicker, Sam Swank, sat out with a strained right quadriceps, with understudy Shane Popham missing a pair of early field goals, which came just after Scott surrendered a fumble in Maryland territory.

The Terps’ Obi Egekeze, once beleaguered during an 0-for-5 start this season, made four field goals to run his streak of consecutive conversions to nine.

It was a display of all that Maryland was not in a 31-0 loss at Virginia a fortnight earlier. It is perhaps appropriate the demolition of the Demon Deacons capped a once-every-half-century occurrence - the Terps following a shutout loss with a victory in the same manner for the first time since 1957.

Just consider it one more puzzling thing about a clearly enigmatic team.

“It’s what we’ve been known for this year,” linebacker Alex Wujciak said.

The tricky part for Maryland is uncovering some way to change its calling card. The Terps produced their fifth straight victory over a ranked team, a remarkable streak accomplished just once before in school history.

Yet any attempt to read into such success should be measured against Maryland’s 5-8 record against unranked opponents in the same span. And, yes, the Terps will be faced with the task of improving that mark when 2-5 N.C. State rolls into Byrd Stadium on Saturday.

“Any way you guys could vote them into the Top 25?” Friedgen pleaded with media members.

Not likely. If there’s anything to be learned from monitoring the Terps for a little more than half a season, it’s that a single game never teaches a definitive lesson. Certainly, they can be as good as they were against the Demon Deacons on Saturday, when they notched the school’s first shutout of a ranked opponent since 1955.

It is within their realm to play equally poorly, as evidenced by the Virginia loss.

As a result, attempting to draw sweeping conclusions about Maryland remains a fool’s errand. But a significant accomplishment seems to be again within reach, especially with bowl eligibility just a victory away.

“The good news is, we’re 5-2 and in a pretty good place right now in the ACC,” Turner said. “We have a shot. We just have to not lose any more games.”

That might not be as simple as it sounds. But it would defy expectations - a Maryland trait in the first half of the season, again Saturday and quite possibly for the rest of the season.

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