Friedgen plays Blue Devils' advocate

Head coach warns unbeaten Terps not to look past 0-6 Duke

October 20, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen has spent the past week telling his team to put aside the celebration surrounding its best start in 23 years, and to concentrate on whipping its next opponent, which happens to be the doormat of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

So, you think the 12th-ranked, unbeaten Terps, who are bowl eligible for the first time since 1995 and gunning for their first 7-0 start since 1978, are looking ahead to next week's game at Florida State as they await Duke at today's homecoming event?

Some of the players might be taking the Blue Devils lightly, but not Maryland's surly, first-year head coach.

Friedgen, who was barking at players during this week's practices as he has all season, needs only to bring up that little homecoming incident in 1999, when Duke upset Maryland, 25-22. The Terps then lost their last three games to finish with a 5-6 record.

"I've just reminded them that two years ago, they got beat on homecoming day by Duke," Friedgen said. "We are looking forward to this week's game. No, we are not underestimating Duke. It's a new week."

Truth be told, Friedgen is hoping to unload his bench on the early side this afternoon against an opponent that probably does not belong on the same field with Maryland (6-0, 4-0).

He would love to give battered running back Bruce Perry a nice rest, and do the same for such banged-up players as defensive end Durrand Roundtree. He probably will get his wish against a school that has beaten the Terps only four times since 1973.

It's hard to imagine the Terps not trying to put the game away early. The Blue Devils (0-6, 0-4) are not just winless this season; they have an 18-game losing streak and have yet to taste victory during the millennium. Duke's last celebration occurred on Nov. 13, 1999. That day, the Blue Devils beat Wake Forest, 48-35.

"If I bring it up all the time, it can take a toll. It's not something we talk about every day. We just try to get ready to play a football game," said Duke coach Carl Franks, who is 3-25 during his three years in Durham.

"They don't need me reminding them. They're a competitive group of football players, and they know what we need to do to win. They've played hard. They just haven't played hard or smart all the time."

To defeat Maryland, the Blue Devils probably will have to play their best game ever under Franks, and also catch Maryland on its worst day under Friedgen.

Consider the signs that point to a mismatch: Maryland, which has yet to find consistency in its passing game under senior quarterback Shaun Hill, is still averaging 32.2 points a game. Duke already has surrendered 37 or more points on four occasions.

The Terps are determined to pound Duke with Perry, who is fifth in the nation with an average of 145 rushing yards per game and is coming off a bruising, season-low 49-yard effort in the 20-17, overtime upset at Georgia Tech - Maryland's first victory over a ranked team since 1990. Duke is last in the ACC in rushing defense, having given up 215 yards per outing.

Hill could be due for an outbreak of good decisions and pinpoint throws. Duke figures to crowd the line of scrimmage with seven or eight defenders to contain Perry, which could leave receivers like senior Guilian Gary and sophomore Jafar Williams with numerous big-play chances.

"Everybody knows we're ranked 12th, but nothing is different," said Gary, who is enjoying his first winning season in College Park. "We just have to keep building. We don't know how to act when we're ranked, so we just come out the same way."

If turnovers dictate the outcome, another advantage should swing Maryland's way. The Terps have overcome spotty play on offense and special teams by recording 21 turnovers and committing only seven, which is easily the most proficient margin in the conference. Duke ranks last in the ACC with a turnover margin of minus-seven.

Duke is counting on an all-around performance from sophomore tailback Chris Douglas, who runs, catches and returns kicks well. He leads the league with an average of 185.5 all-purpose yards.

The home fans at Byrd Stadium today will be expecting a party atmosphere ushered in by a rout. Just don't bother selling that pre-game notion to Friedgen, who pointed to Duke's character a week ago. The Blue Devils spotted Wake Forest a 28-0 lead before coming back and forcing the issue in a 42-35 loss.

"This team is very capable of beating us, and we have to be ready to play, or we're not going to be real happy on Monday. Wake dodged a bullet last week. I don't want to be dodging that bullet," Friedgen said. "Just because we're bowl-eligible doesn't mean we're going to a bowl. We've still got to continue to win."

Senior cornerback Tony Okanlawon, who has an ACC-leading five of Maryland's 14 interceptions, promised the Terrapins would retain their hunger.

"We have enough maturity to not think of letting down," he said. "We still have five games to play. We don't want to be a team that started fast and didn't finish well."

Maryland today

Opponent: Duke (0-6)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 9, Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 M)

Line: Maryland by 25 1/2

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