No. 8 Terps: Time off may be on their side

As others play on, 9-week run ends with ACC title, needed rest

College Football

November 20, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Elation wasn't the only thing that came to Maryland when it completed its regular season on Saturday night with a 23-19 win over North Carolina State and the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship.

The team also will get a bit of rest after the school's first 10-win campaign since 1976.

Players for the eighth-ranked Terps (10-1), who stayed at No. 12 in the Bowl Championship Series standings released yesterday, have this week off before returning for two weeks of conditioning and drills. Bowl practice tentatively will start Dec. 7, two days before the BCS announces the pairings for its Jan. 1-3 games.

"They've got to go to study hall, and go to their classes, but I think they need to get away from football a little bit," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said Sunday, one day after his team clinched a BCS berth.

The breather is much needed, even for a team that has not suffered major absences aside from the illness that has sidelined cornerback Tony Okanlawon the past four games.

For that, the players gave credit to the summer conditioning that led to an August training camp in which no key players were sidelined with injuries.

"Some of it is our conditioning and the way we entered the season," quarterback Shaun Hill said. "A lot of it is fortune. It's a physical sport. We've had the nagging injuries, but we haven't had so many of the devastating injuries that you see a lot of times."

There are still a few sprained ankles to consider, and cornerback Dennard Wilson is still fighting a hamstring injury incurred Nov. 3 vs. Troy State.

Additionally, the Terps are coming off a long stretch, having played nine straight weekends. Maryland originally was to play four games to begin the season, have a bye, then play the final seven weeks. Instead, the third game was rescheduled for the fifth week because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Toward the end of the season, Friedgen shortened practices partly because of earlier darkness, but also due to fatigue.

"I think you get stale at this time of year," the coach said recently. "We're a little beat up, too. We get done what we need to get done and if we do it right, we get 'em out of here."

On Sunday, Friedgen - who made appearances yesterday at touchdown clubs in Atlanta and Macon, Ga. - spoke to his own weariness. "I found myself nodding off on buses and planes," he said. "I don't ever remember doing that. I'm just really tired."

Center Melvin Fowler said that the timing of this break could give Maryland an advantage. The Terps could face a team whose season ends as late as Dec. 8.

"It's only going to help any team out when it has a chance to rest and recuperate while other teams are finishing their season," Fowler said. "It's a plus for us."

Maryland's coaches will hit the road this week to recruit, which might be easier now. The conference title should make the Terps more attractive to prospects, said Friedgen.

"We ran into a lot of really good players who had trouble with their peer group ... because of our lack of success," Friedgen said. "We're big time. They can't use that excuse."

NOTES: Friedgen is planning on four regular practices before Dec. 14, sessions when possible during final exams through the 19th, then twice daily from Dec. 20-22 before players leave for the winter break. ... Maryland will be the only ACC school in a BCS bowl this season. The other league schools won't receive an at-large bid, the BCS announced yesterday.

Bowl Championship Series standings

........................................ .........Poll....Comp.Schedule.....................Sub-...Quality

..........................AP U-E avg. avg. strength...... Rank.... L.... total... win....Total

1. Nebraska.... 2....... 2....... 2.0.... 1.17...... 25.............1.00...... 0..... 4.17... -1.3.... 2.87

2. Miami............1....... 1........1.0..... 2.33......48............ 1.92...... 0...... 5.25... -0.0....5.25

3. Oklahoma... 4....... 4....... 4.0......3.33..... 20............ 0.80.......1...... 9.13... -1.0... 8.13

4. Florida..........3....... 3....... 3.0..... 4.83..... 28.............1.12.......1.......9.95.... -0.0.. 9.95

5. Oregon........ 6....... 7....... 6.5...... 5.00.... 23............ 0.92.......1..... 13.42..-0.2...13.22

6. Texas........... 5....... 5...... 5.0....... 6.33.... 54............ 2.16.......1....14.49....-0.1...14.39

7. Tennessee.. 7....... 6...... 6.5....... 7.17.....7.............. 0.28...... 1.....14.95....-0.0..14.95

8. Illinois......... 10..... 10.... 10.0...... 8.00....19............ 0.76.......1.....19.76... -0.0..19.76

9. Stanford......13..... 13.... 13.0...... 8.67.... 6............. 0.24.......2.... 23.91...-1.1...22.81

10. Michigan...11.... 11......11.0....10.67.....5............. 0.20...... 2.... 23.87....-0.8...23.07

11. Washington..12..12....12.0... 11.83... 33............1.32....... 2.... 27.15....-1.5...25.65

12. Maryland.... 8....... 9..... 8.5.... 13.33.... 79........... 3.16.......1..... 25.99...-0.0.. 25.99

13. Brigham

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