- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2008

The biggest problem for Maryland’s quixotic football team might just be that its remaining schedule isn’t tough enough.

I’m not talking overconfidence here. I’m talking about the strange fact that the Terrapins play potently against ranked opponents and pathetically against those residing in a figurative Dumpster.

Case in point: Saturday’s 26-0 dismantling of No. 21 Wake Forest before a delighted and probably incredulous throng of 46,257 at Byrd Stadium. Maryland (5-2) also has whupped a No. 20 squad (Clemson) and a No. 23 (California).

Matter of fact, the Terps are 5-0 the last two seasons against outfits held in relatively high esteem by Associated Press voters. Unfortunately, their only remaining engagements with occupants of the Top 25 are Nov. 6 at No. 17 Virginia Tech and Nov. 15 against No. 18 North Carolina.

Against lesser rivals, this same Maryland team - I think - was lucky to beat mediocre Delaware 14-7 and positively went down the drain, to put it politely, in a 31-0 loss to Virginia.

Would the real Terps stand up - or fall down, as the case may be?

When it comes to flip-flopping, it seems politicians have no monopoly.

I doubt that Ralph Friedgen, Maryland’s eighth-year coach, has figured out his team yet. If he has, let’s have him attack those economic woes. Heck, let’s have him run for president.

“We finally put a full game together,” he said after Saturday’s romp in the park. “That’s by far the best we’ve played this season. I was embarrassed last week against Virginia.”

Actually, the Cavaliers beat the bejabbers out of Ralph’s troops two weeks ago. Last week was a welcome open date for the Terps, and we may assume Friedgen and his assistants did not shower the players with compliments.

When Maryland wins, Friedgen does a passable impression of a jolly fat man. Of his team’s demonstrated knack of rising or falling to the occasion, Ralph said, “Hey, we’ve got a bunch of ranked teams left [to play], so we’ve got a chance, right?”

A bit later, discussing next weekend’s home date with unranked N.C. State, he told the assorted media, “Hey, maybe you guys can do something about [ranking the Wolfpack].”

OK, so he isn’t Rodney Dangerfield. But considering his team’s inconsistency this autumn, it’s remarkable that Friedgen can even smile, much less dispense one-liners.

Against the Demon Deacons, the Terps played as if they might give Texas or Alabama a decent scrap. The slightly restructured offensive line cleared enough holes and protected quarterback Chris Turner well enough to let Maryland accumulate 470 yards of offense.

The defense held Wake Forest to 219 yards and harassed star quarterback Riley Skinner so persistently that he completed just 14 of 30 passes for 127 yards. Meanwhile, Turner had his best game with the Terps, hitting 28 of 41 tosses (11 to wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey) for a whopping 321 yards.

The Terps also got a break, though it ultimately wasn’t needed, when standout Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank was unable to join the fray because of a quadriceps injury. That left all the Deacons’ booting chores up to redshirt freshman Shane Popham, who obligingly missed two first-half field goals after fumbles by Maryland tailback Da’Rel Scott gave Wake scoring opportunities.

His opposite number, the Terps’ Obi Egekeze, went 4-for-4 on his career day, thereby further distinguishing himself from former Maryland hoopster Obinna Ekezie.

Truly, this was a dandy day when almost nobody in a black uniform could do anything wrong. (Maryland donned its alternate jerseys for the first time in 2008.)

At the finish, Friedgen was discussing dreams and issuing challenges.

“We gotta win every game coming up if we want to win the [ACC’s Atlantic] Division,” he insisted. “And that’s what I want to do, reach the ACC championship game.”

Careful, Ralph. Remember you still have to play three unranked teams (N.C. State, Florida State, Boston College), and the possibility of disaster looms large.



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