Terps' spirits worry coach

Friedgen concerned about a letdown against Troy State

College Football

November 03, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Though convinced of the need to be ready for Troy State, Ralph Friedgen was unsure of his Maryland team's sharpness as it prepared for today's 1 p.m. game against the Trojans.

As late as Wednesday, the first-year coach fretted over what he found to be sluggish practices. The No. 15-ranked Terrapins, coming off a 52-31 loss to Florida State last Saturday, seemed to lack what Friedgen called "a pep in their step."

"I don't know if we're tired," Friedgen said at the time. "I'm just concerned. There's just something about it that I don't feel good about."

Bad omens abound in a week like this as 7-1 Maryland tries to keep from letting last week's setback supersede the task of defeating what fans expect to be an inferior foe.

Friedgen said he expects the Terps to put the loss behind them. Throughout the week, his players said they were doing as much.

"It hurt on Saturday night, but after that, we had to let go of it," Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill said. "We've got to win out the rest of the season, starting with this week."

But even for players who lost as many as 20 of their previous 33 games coming into this season, losing is suddenly a new thing. To bounce back could be easier in word than in deed.

Friedgen said it is another test he expects his team to pass.

"It's another hurdle you have to get over," he said. "They've gotten a lot more pluses than minuses this year, so I have a lot of confidence in our senior leadership."

Troy State (4-3) does not fit the profile of a team that should scare any squad still clinging to aspirations of a New Year's Day bowl. Though technically in its first year as a Division I-A school, Troy is actually in a transitional period and won't officially enter Division I-A until next year.

The Trojans play in a 17,000-seat stadium. They were given all they could handle by such Division I-AA teams as Cal-State Northridge and Southern Utah and they lost to Middle Tennessee by 37 points.

But the margin of defeat against Middle Tennessee was the largest for Troy State this season, one that also included games at No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Nebraska, in both of which the Trojans were competitive before the elite teams pulled away.

"They came out and a had very good game plan," Miami defensive tackle Matt Walters told the St. Petersburg Times after his team beat Troy State, 38-7. "They were aggressive and kept us on our heels. They had us sitting back a little bit. That's a good job by their coaches."

The Trojans also went on the road and beat a Mississippi State squad talented enough to be ranked in just about everyone's Top 20 when the season began.

Team speed is the quality that Maryland fears most in Troy State, with its transfers from such schools as Alabama, Auburn, Southern Mississippi and Florida State, all of whom have played a role in keeping their team competitive this season.

"It's a team we can't look past, by any means," said Hill. "It's the type of team that scares us. We'd better be ready to play because they're better than some of the teams we've faced this year."

Terps today

Opponent: Troy State (4-3)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast pay-per-view/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 22

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