Terps hope homecoming brings home victory

With 0-2 record at Byrd Stadium, Maryland awaits No. 19 Virginia and star QB Hagans

October 01, 2005|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

College Park -- He tried to explain it to them, the magnitude of today's homecoming game, the storied rivalry between the programs in bordering states and their coaches.

Blank faces stared back at Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.

While the young squad might not grasp the history between Maryland and Virginia, it seems to understand the future implications of a loss to - or a win against - the No. 19-ranked Cavaliers (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) at noon today.

The 2-2 Terps are 0-2 in Byrd Stadium, and 1-1 in the ACC. The toughest part of the schedule has yet to come, with Virginia Tech, Florida State and Boston College looming in the latter half of the season.

Maryland showed improvement last Saturday in a 22-12 win over Wake Forest, but if the Terps are going to reverse last year's 5-6 season, they're going to have to knock off a team of Virginia's caliber or better somewhere along the way.

"It's definitely time to win one at Byrd and get the winning tradition back in Maryland football and at home," senior safety Milton Harris said. "You don't want to start off losing your first couple of games at home ... There's no better time than this weekend to start the winning tradition."

It's not going to be easy - not against one of the most productive offenses in the conference. Senior Marques Hagans, a versatile quarterback who threw four touchdowns in last weekend's 38-7 win over Duke, also had one 100-yard rushing game this season, and will test the Terps' entire defense.

Hagans threw for 114 yards in the Cavaliers' 16-0 win over Maryland in Charlottesville last year. For many Terps, that's as far back as the history goes. It might be enough.

"We want some payback," said sophomore running back Keon Lattimore, whose career-high 76 yards rushing against Wake Forest and solid week of practice might have moved him into the starting role today. "We went down there last year, they beat us. They shut us out. We've got them here at home. It's an opportunity to end their rank."

The best quarterback Maryland has faced this season was Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst, who completed 18 of his 22 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers' 28-24 win.

Harris said he expects Hagans to be the secondary's biggest test.

"It's really tough to defend a quarterback who can hurt you with more than his arm," Harris said. "Even if we have the receivers covered, he's always a threat to take off and run the ball."

The Terps hope to keep Hagans in the pocket, where he might have trouble seeing over an offensive line that averages 302 pounds and has paved the way for an average of nearly 400 yards per game.

Virginia, which has racked up 32 points a game, is also second in the ACC in rushing offense with an average of 189.7 yards per game. Senior tailback Wali Lundy, who has had a slow start this season because of a foot injury he sustained in the season opener against Western Michigan, has scored five touchdowns in three games against Maryland.

The Terps' defense, though, is coming off what Friedgen considered to be its best performance. Maryland held Wake Forest, the ACC's top rushing team, to a season-low 111 yards. Still, Maryland is last in the conference in rushing defense, allowing opponents an average of 193 yards per game.

Virginia, however, is holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing per game. Last year, the Cavaliers held Maryland to 51 yards on the ground - not an uncommon number for this year's offense. The Terps rushed for 50 yards against West Virginia and 56 against Clemson.

"It's been frustrating, but we show signs that we can be really good," fullback Ricardo Dickerson said. "That's the thing that keeps us going. It's not like we're just a terrible offense and can't do nothing. We do some good things and we do some bad things. It's always going to be like that. A lot of teams are stacking the box on us, making it hard for us to run."

Earlier this week, Friedgen was asked if Virginia has the toughest run defense he's seen yet.

"The funny thing about it is, they're very good against the run," he said, laughing. "But they're fifth in the conference."

And the top three - Boston College, Virginia Tech and Florida State - are all still on his schedule.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

VIRGINIA@MARYLAND Today, noon, Ch. 54, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: Virginia by 3 1/2

Today's game

No. 19 Virginia (3-0) @Maryland (2-2)

Site -- Byrd Stadium, College Park

Time -- Noon

TV/Radio -- Ch. 54/1300 AM, 105.7 FM

Line -- Virginia by 3 1/2

Series -- Maryland leads 39-28-2

Last meeting -- Virginia defeated Maryland, 16-0, last Nov. 6 in Charlottesville, Va.

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