Terps put on road faces vs. Wake

Bidding for 3-0 start, UM gets hostility test

September 22, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Play will resume for the Maryland football team today, but save the normality references for another time.

Sure, today's game against Wake Forest continues a Saturday routine after last weekend's matchup with West Virginia was postponed following the terrorist attacks.

But for a program looking for only its third 3-0 start in the past 15 seasons, the 3:30 p.m. test will still lack familiarity.

Maryland, treated to mostly friendly crowds of more than 40,000 in its two wins at Byrd Stadium, will now endure opposing fans at 31,500-seat Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

And in addition to the experience of traveling by plane, when such trips suddenly seem almost novel again, the Terrapins also will take a crack at an opponent that is both confident and competent in pursuing a 3-0 start of its own.

"They're playing very well," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "This is going to be a big game on our schedule. Our challenge this week is that we're playing an undefeated team on their turf."

Unlike North Carolina, which came to College Park after getting whacked by Oklahoma, and Eastern Michigan, which was overmatched, Wake Forest enters its Atlantic Coast Conference opener carrying unexpected momentum for a team that finished 1-10 last season.

Before the season, Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe said he needed to open against well-regarded East Carolina "like a turtle needs air brakes." But in producing a 294-yard rushing attack during a 21-19 road win, his team established faith in itself despite turnovers and penalties that had him claiming that "we're not a very good football team."

"I'm very encouraged by our start," said Grobe, who benefits from returning starters at 20 positions. "I thought we were better than people gave us credit for. We proved that against East Carolina and then came back and played a tough Appalachian game."

Three lost fumbles contributed to the struggle against Division I-AA Appalachian State that finally ended in a 20-10 Wake win. The Demon Deacons have been penalized 17 times for 139 yards in their first two games.

Wake Forest miscues could be a boon for Maryland, which has turned the ball over only once this season. Friedgen believes that forcing long-yardage situations will be a crucial factor against a no-huddle attack that runs a lot of option plays and eats up the clock.

"What Wake Forest does an excellent job of is staying on schedule," Friedgen said. "Their first down is a crucial down for them and for us. In the two games we've broken down [on tape], they've had five or six third-and-seven-plus situations. And that's why they're controlling the football."

Wake's power game - tailback Tarence Williams leads an offense that averaged 253 yards on the ground in its two games - should make for an interesting pairing against Maryland's defensive speed. The Terps' defense is ranked ninth nationally with 200 yards allowed per game.

For the Terps, the challenge is different than what it was for the first two games, when the team faced, and stymied, basically balanced offenses. The only advantage is that the defense is aware of the pace of the Deacons' no-huddle attack.

"They're a very up-tempo team. They like to spread you out, but yet run the ball," said reserve safety Tyrone Stewart. "Most teams play them with five or six running backs, which hurts them in the running game."

On offense, Friedgen is hoping that quarterback Shaun Hill and the receivers can execute the downfield passing game to complement tailback Bruce Perry, who has run for 249 yards in two games.

Moreover, he hopes that his team is mature enough to handle this road foray, saying, "It's a business trip, not a pleasure trip."

Friedgen's puts his faith in such seniors as linebacker Aaron Thompson, who know the significance of this game and will try to convey that to the younger players.

"We have to prove we can win outside of Byrd Stadium," Thompson said. "There are no other goals or hidden values to this game. It's a game we need to win - it's an ACC game and it's on the road."

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