Terps vault into Top 25 polls for the first time since 1995

Maryland ranked 25th by AP, ESPN/USA Today

College Football

October 01, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

With a 4-0 record, Maryland is ranked No. 25 in both the Associated Press media poll and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. The Terps haven't been ranked since Sept. 25, 1995, when they were No. 17 in both polls.

"It's a thing that's nice, but it's a long season," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "If we continue to win, that will take care of itself."

The ranking comes with Maryland atop the Atlantic Coast Conference (2-0 record) heading into a home game with conference co-leader Virginia on Saturday.

Maryland's defense - led by E.J. Henderson, who had 16 tackles in Saturday's win over West Virginia - is allowing 12.5 points a game. The offense is sparked by tailback Bruce Perry, who leads the nation in rushing with 169.6 yards a game after a 153-yard performance Saturday.

Asked whether this was the best feeling he has had around College Park, senior receiver Guilian Gary said: "It's got to be. We've never been 4-0."

Friedgen described the ranking as premature, though he hoped that it might increase enthusiasm among fans and potential recruits.

Nevertheless, Friedgen is one of only three coaches leading Top 25 teams in their rookie seasons, joining Miami's Larry Coker and Toledo's Tom Amstutz. Unlike Coker and Amstutz - who took over teams with a combined 21-2 record last season - the former Georgia Tech offensive coordinator had the task of reviving a struggling program when he accepted the job in November.

"People take notice, and I hope we'll catch some eyes," Friedgen said, referring to recruits. "But you'd like to be consistently in the Top 20. If you do that over time, you have a good football program."

Until Maryland becomes a fixture in the Top 25, its coaching staff has a few, glaring chores to take care of. The passing game needs fixing before the year is through, as do special teams.

Most areas of the team, in fact, will require improvement as the toughest part of the schedule looms. Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina State fall within the team's last six games.

"The crux of this season is just starting. These next seven weeks will determine how good a team we are," Friedgen said. "If we don't win any more games, this ranking right now won't mean anything."

NOTES: Receiver Daryl Whitmer sprained his right medial collateral ligament and is likely out two to four weeks. ... Cornerback Andrew Smith Jr., acquitted of criminal charges from a February incident, will return to the team today, ending what had been a seven-month suspension. Linebacker Marlon Moye-Moore, convicted of a misdemeanor assault charge from the same incident, may also return. Friedgen said he would make a decision as soon as today. ... Tony Jackson and Tony Okanlawon, who each rank fifth nationally in interceptions per game (0.75), had two of the Terps' four picks Saturday.

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