Players' bowl questions premature for Friedgen

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

Coach is understanding but wants concentration

College Football

November 14, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland's Saturday night matchup on the road against North Carolina State (6-3) has coach Ralph Friedgen a little concerned.

See, with all the talk about the Terps (9-1) winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title and the possibility of a berth in one of four top bowls, players have wanted to know what arrangements their parents should make for whatever bowl they end up in.

Maryland gained the inside track on an Orange Bowl berth over the weekend, though things may not be settled in that regard until next month.

Players popped a few bowl-related questions at Friedgen, and, to the coach, it was an unnecessary distraction four days before the game in Raleigh against the Wolfpack, which is coming off a 34-28 win at Florida State last weekend.

"There's a lot of bowl speculation," Friedgen said. "The players have a lot of concerns as far as making plans and the unknown of where we are going. My answer to them is that we will know more after this week."

The coach has shut off access to practice this week. "I worry about them being content," he said, "and they don't need to be content, not until after the season is over."

The small worries run counter to what the Terps have displayed in performing the best one-year turnaround of any team this season aside from Washington State.

In games in which letdowns were expected - Eastern Michigan, Duke and Troy State - the team won by an average of 52-11. In the four swing games - North Carolina, Wake Forest, West Virginia and Virginia - it won each by at least a touchdown.

In the three games in which Friedgen felt the glare might be too bright, Maryland beat overbilled teams from Georgia Tech and Clemson and was two cornerbacks and a quarter away from toppling Florida State.

So heading into the North Carolina State game, could this be another case of the big boy crying wolf?

Left guard Todd Wike said he understood the importance of maintaining focus for this weekend's game, but described the players' questions as the normal ones of whether they'd get to go home and what they would do for the winter holidays.

Though this season has been a huge change for the better, it's meant some unexpected changes. "I've been home every year since I've been here," said Wike, a junior.

Second to none

Maryland began the season facing one of the two most dominating defensive players in the ACC, Julius Peppers of North Carolina, and will end with the other, N.C. State's Levar Fisher, but Friedgen said there's no better than his own linebacker, E.J. Henderson.

For the fifth time this season, the Aberdeen native has earned the ACC Player of the Week honor for his position, more than any other player in the league, after recording 17 tackles in the win over Clemson Saturday.

Henderson recently broke Randy White's school record for tackles for a loss and now has 24.

Peppers, a defensive end, may be the first player taken in the 2002 NFL draft, and Fisher, an outside linebacker, ranks fifth nationally in tackles with 125. But Friedgen said Henderson's consistency has set him apart this season.

"There's no question in my mind about E.J. Henderson," Friedgen said. "I don't care if it's in practice or if it's on Saturday, this kid comes to play. I couldn't ask more of E.J. than what he's done."

Miscellaneous

Maryland leads the nation in interceptions with 23 after picking off Clemson's quarterbacks four times on Saturday. Overall, the Terps rank second in turnover margin at plus-1.70. ... The team ranks last in the ACC in every kicking coverage and return category except for net punting, which has been assisted by the punting of Brooks Barnard, who ranks third nationally with a 44.6 average.

Next for Maryland

Opponent: N.C. State

Site: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.

When: Saturday, 7:45 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 3

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