UM's ACC title hopes get a lift over weekend

No. 3 FSU's loss creates scenarios for tie at top

Maryland notebook

College Football

November 10, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Ralph Friedgen tried his best to stay awake Saturday for the Florida State-Clemson game, but by the time the second half rolled around, he had drifted off to sleep on his couch.

He woke up to find that the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship was suddenly up for grabs again.

"It's a pretty crazy league, isn't it?" Friedgen said.

Whether Clemson's 26-10 victory over the third-ranked Seminoles will help Tigers coach Tommy Bowden keep his job is debatable, but it definitely shook up the league race. If Maryland (6-3, 3-2 ACC) wins its next three games, and N.C. State beats Florida State on Saturday (something the Wolfpack has done two years in a row), then the Terps could finish tied for the league championship. That scenario seemed highly unlikely after Maryland lost to Georgia Tech, 7-3, on Oct. 23, but the possibility was alive and well in Friedgen's mind yesterday.

"We have a shot," Friedgen said. "We've got to find a way to win, and then root like hell for N.C. State. Hey, go Wolfpack."

Of course, Friedgen pointed out, none of it matters if Maryland can't beat Virginia (5-4, 3-3) on Thursday, something the Terps could not do last season with a shot at the league title on the line. In that game, Maryland went down to Charlottesville riding the wave of an eight-game winning streak - and left on the wrong side of a 48-13 blowout.

The game only added fuel to the growing rivalry between the two teams. This year, for the first time since 1945, the winner of the game will take home the Tydings Trophy, which was awarded to the winner of the Maryland-Virginia game in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. The two schools stopped issuing the trophy to the winner in 1945 when the teams didn't play each other for 11 years, but this year the tradition will re-emerge.

It also doesn't hurt that Virginia coach Al Groh took a thinly veiled shot at Maryland's schedule (which included Akron, Eastern Michigan and Wofford) last year after the Cavaliers were passed over for the ACC's top three bowl berths, despite beating both Maryland and N.C. State.

"Anytime you've got the two coaches going at it a little bit, it just shows how competitive it is," said Maryland guard Lamar Bryant.

Perry doubtful

Terps tailback Bruce Perry did some light jogging in practice yesterday, but his availability for Thursday seems doubtful. Perry injured his ankle in the first half against North Carolina on Nov. 1 and hasn't been able to run on it since. Friedgen said that if Perry couldn't practice today, he wouldn't play.

"He just wouldn't get enough reps in the game plan," Friedgen said.

With Perry doubtful and running back Sam Maldonado out for the season with a torn knee ligament, Maryland is no longer that deep at running back. Sophomore Josh Allen will start, and Mario Merrills and J.P. Humber will serve as backups, but Friedgen said he hasn't ruled out using freshman Lance Ball, who hasn't played this season.

"I'm not going to play him if it's a blowout, but if he's the second-best running back and we need to win, I'd do it," Friedgen said. "He's looked pretty impressive catching the ball out of the backfield in practice this week."

Ball rushed for 3,403 yards and had 39 touchdowns during his three-year varsity career at Teaneck (N.J.) High School.

Next for Terps

Matchup:Virginia (5-4, 3-3) vs. Maryland (6-3, 3-2)

Site:Byrd Stadium, College Park

When:Thursday, 7:45 p.m.

TV/Radio:ESPN/ WBAL (1090 AM)

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