Terps prove too generous for their own good

6 turnovers vs. Fla. State all but destroyed chances

College Football

September 16, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

After a 37-10 loss to Florida State in its league opener Saturday night, Maryland must regroup and improve heading into the bulk of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule next month.

Taking care of the ball is the simplest need for the Terps (1-2, 0-1 ACC), who turned the ball over six times against the Seminoles, including a 15-minute stretch in which three giveaways turned into 21 points and transformed a relatively close game into an exhibition.

"Florida State is a very good team, but I feel as if we came out and basically shot ourselves in the foot," said tailback Chris Downs, who should know. He fumbled to kill one drive and had a 61-yard touchdown run negated by an illegal-block penalty called against receiver Latrez Harrison.

In three games, Maryland has committed nine turnovers, exactly three times as many as the team had at this point last year. The seven interceptions thrown by this year's Terps are just two shy of the 2001 team's output.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen keeps a statistic called "margin of error," which tracks mistakes well beyond turnovers - such as missed assignments and dropped passes - divided by the number of plays. While the Terps like to keep mistakes to below 12 percent, the coaching staff discovered that the team exceeded 20 percent in losses to Florida State and Notre Dame.

"We still need to eliminate our mental mistakes. We need to do a consistent job of consistently executing the plays," Friedgen said. "First two games we lost, it was 22.6 against Notre Dame, and this one [Florida State] was 21.5. The one we won [Akron] was 4.3."

Heading into this weekend's home game against Eastern Michigan - to be played at 6 p.m. on Saturday - Friedgen said he'd try looking to the team's second-half performance against Florida State, particularly on offense, as a source of encouragement.

Maryland was down 30-0 by the time it was able to put together a couple of drives, but, "In the second half, everybody calmed down. We ran our bread-and-butter and we ran it right," receiver Scooter Monroe said.

"A lot of teams would have folded. They didn't," Friedgen said. "You're not going to win every battle you go in against a team like Florida State, but I didn't see a lack of effort."

Maryland, which gained 298 total yards on Saturday, will have other opportunities to get healthy over the next three weeks, with this weekend's game followed by another home date with Division I-AA Wofford and then a road trip to West Virginia.

Though the favorable scheduling could be useful for a team that has wilted under the scrutiny of big games and seems more comfortable against weaker teams, the Terps downplay the effect.

"I take every game the same," Friedgen said. "I coach every game like it's the last one I'm going to play in my life. I don't look at the hoopla."

The likely return of Bruce Perry for Saturday's game is a boost the coach was more willing to identify, the tailback being ready five weeks after he suffered a groin injury.

The junior from Philadelphia - who rushed for 1,242 yards last year - could be cleared to play as soon as today, which could give Maryland a proven playmaker.

"The experience factor is a natural one, and also skill level and his speed," Friedgen said, assessing what Perry brings. "When he's on, he's a really good back. He's got great acceleration, great vision. When he runs north-south, he's a powerful guy. Plus, he's also good out of the backfield."

Next for Terps

Opponent: Eastern Michigan

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

TV: Comcast pay-per-view

Line: Maryland by 35

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