UM keeping confidence under wraps

Heavily favored Terps won't overlook E. Mich.

September 08, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - For a college football program that hasn't had a winning season since 1990, brashness wouldn't seem to be a possible foe after a season-opening victory. But Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has that concern going into tonight's game against visiting Eastern Michigan.

The Terps are favored by 24 1/2 points against the Eagles, who went 3-8 last season and struggled to defeat Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State last week in their opener, 16-12.

"Last week, I was worried about confidence. This week, I'm worried about overconfidence," the first-year coach said earlier this week. "We still have to go to work and punch the clock. We're not good enough to put the helmet on the field and expect that it's going to happen."

Friedgen will focus on improvement after the Terps' 23-7 win over North Carolina. There were plenty of highlights last week, including Bruce Perry's 116 yards rushing, the three interceptions, the three sacks by Aaron Thompson, and the 50.4-yard punting average of Brooks Barnard.

Maryland generally pestered the Tar Heels after they scored on a big play on their first possession.

Still, there was enough to pick apart, from quarterback Shaun Hill's struggles, to barely perceptible errors in alignment on both sides of the ball. Pass protection and timing between quarterbacks and receivers were concerns on offense, while allowing the big play was a worry for the defense.

"We had one mistake here, one mistake there," tight end Jeff Dugan said about the offense. "It's not as polished as it could be, but that comes with time."

"There wasn't anything that couldn't be corrected," said Friedgen. "As long as we continue to improve - [the players] have taken that attitude, and I'm pleased with that."

Hill threw for two touchdowns without an interception, but completed only 10 of his 26 passes. Friedgen attributed some of that to blown routes or dropped balls, but also to a rough day that included some poor throws and constant pressure from Julius Peppers, who sacked Hill three times.

Friedgen said he will stick with Hill, who said he has tried to refine his technique this week.

"We didn't execute in the passing game and there were a lot of minor things that went wrong," Hill said. "I came out this week to work on my mechanics and try to get back to basics."

Hill's backup, Latrez Harrison, has gotten more reps this week, indicating Friedgen might activate his plan to get him in some games. Friedgen said 42 Terps played against North Carolina, in comparison to the 50 or more he would like to see get in tonight.

Likewise, Eastern Michigan's Jeff Woodruff wants to test more players. Half his team had never played Division I-A football before last week, and Woodruff said the Eagles might have as many as 10 freshmen in their lineup by the time they get into the heart of their Mid-American Conference schedule.

A freshman, tailback Chris Roberson, gave the Eagles their victory over Southeast Missouri State on a 5-yard run with 1:47 left.

"For us, it's getting the right people in the lineup," Woodruff said. "I'm sure Maryland's not concerned with us, but we're not concerned with them. We've got to get ready in a hurry, so we can be in contention in our conference."

The MAC has pulled off its share of wins against major conference teams. Last season, Toledo defeated host Penn State, 24-6. In 1997, Ohio marred Ron Vanderlinden's Maryland debut by scoring a 21-14 victory at Byrd Stadium.

That's motivation enough for Maryland. "It's easy because we started off well," receiver Guilian Gary said. "But we know how easy it can turn around if you get too overconfident."

NOTES: Conditioning coach Dwight Galt called the 2001 camp the best he has seen in terms of keeping players healthy. Quarterback Chris Kelley (knee) is the only Maryland player unavailable tonight. ... Through yesterday, Maryland had sold $76,000 in single-game tickets since its season-opening win and expects nearly 40,000 tonight.

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