No. 15 Maryland dusts itself off

Ranking, hopes slip after loss to Fla. State

Terps notebook

College Football

October 29, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

In past years, staying even with Florida State for three quarters would have been something to build on for Maryland's football teams, regardless of the final result.

But the current Terps (7-1) - now No. 15 in the Associated Press poll, down from No. 10 - are looking to regroup from Saturday's 52-31 defeat, in which their loftiest aspirations dissolved because of turnovers, blown assignments and the Seminoles' 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Now, it's on to Saturday's 1 p.m. home game against Troy State, which moved up to Division I-A just this season but also delivered one of the year's biggest upsets by beating Mississippi State on the road.

"We're still going to be the same hungry Terps," Maryland linebacker Aaron Thompson said. "We're going to be down a little bit tonight, but come Monday, we've got a new agenda. There's nothing we can do about this. This game's gone."

Maryland hopes that had risen from a mere six wins to a possible national title have been adjusted back down to a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference title and the school's highest win total since the 1976 team won 11 games.

"I don't know how many teams have finished 10-1," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We still have an opportunity to win the conference championship, finish 10-1 and find out where we fit on the national scene. If that doesn't [keep the players] motivated, I don't know what does."

Even the current goals were unthinkable when the season began. And until the whitewash in the final quarter, Maryland had retained most of the respect embodied in the No. 8 placement in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Still, senior center Melvin Fowler put little stock in the moral victories that provided nourishment for the Terps as recently as last season. "We lost the game, bottom line. ... That's it."

Friedgen was just as succinct, saying the Terps - by turning the ball over four times - gave the game away.

"I had no problem with the effort," he said. "But when we play a team of that caliber, we can't make the mistakes we made and expect to win."

That said, Friedgen liked the plays that offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe called and the adjustment quarterback Shaun Hill made at the line. He liked the way the defense held a surging Florida State running game to a little more than 3 yards a carry, pointing out freshman defensive tackle Randy Starks in particular.

"Anytime you lose ... you have to look at what you did wrong and what you want to do better," Friedgen said.

"We'll also point out the positives and move on."

More on the way

As much damage as Florida State's Chris Rix inflicted, the Terps aren't done with top-shelf quarterbacks this season.

Next weekend, Clemson's Woody Dantzler visits Byrd Stadium. On Nov. 17, Maryland's defense faces a North Carolina State offense led by the ACC's finest passer, Philip Rivers.

Tony Okanlawon, Maryland's best cover man, is out indefinitely with an illness that Friedgen declined to disclose. With Curome Cox and Dennard Wilson on the corners, Rix passed for 350 yards and five touchdowns - a matchup Friedgen expects future opponents to notice.

"They're going to see the success Florida State had and they're going to try to exploit that situation," the coach said. At the same time, "they did a good job of executing and they had two receivers who could run good. If everyone had that, they'd be where Florida State is."

Meanwhile, Friedgen said he tried to encourage Wilson, who struggled in his first start.

"I still believe in him with all my heart," he said. "He just went up against good receivers with a hot quarterback."

Et cetera

The status of guard Todd Wike (slight concussion, strained chest muscle) and linebacker Mike Whaley (strained back muscle) is uncertain. ... Reserve Curtis Williams, who hurt his hamstring against Duke, is expected back at free safety this weekend.

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