No overlooking Owls

Terrapins serious when they say 0-5 Temple presents challenge


COLLEGE PARK -- As the Maryland football team prepared this week to face one of the worst teams in the country, examples of scary games - proof that anything can happen on Saturdays - were offered as motivation.

For coach Ralph Friedgen, it was the story of Virginia Tech vs. Temple in 2003. That season, the undefeated Hokies marched into Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, just as the Terps will do today, and barely defeated the Owls, 24-23, in overtime.

"Virginia Tech won, but Temple missed an extra point," Friedgen said. "And they were a lot older team than we are. This game scares me. I think it could very well be a trap for us because of the youth of our football team."

Still, with the exception of a lackadaisical Monday, Friedgen said practices this week were precise and crisp. Players said that's because, unlike Temple (0-5) - which has been outscored 259-56 this season - the Terps (3-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have a lot to lose. Maryland is three wins shy of a bowl appearance and has six chances - including today - to get them.

There's also the intangibles.

"Momentum, pride, confidence. ... If we go down there nonchalant, we could lose all that," linebacker Wesley Jefferson said. "They don't have anything to lose. They have not a care in the world right now. They're not trying to win the championship, they're not trying to do anything spectacular, they just want to win the game."

Today's game is sandwiched between Maryland's 45-33 upset of Virginia last week and an ESPN-televised Thursday night contest Oct. 20 against conference power Virginia Tech.

Maryland prepared for today's 1 p.m. kickoff against Temple, which is trying to rebound from last weekend's 70-7 throttling from Bowling Green, as if it were playing the Hokies. The older players said their inspiration was the Terps' season-opening 20-13 overtime loss to Northern Illinois in 2003. It was one of only three blemishes on Maryland's 10-win season that year.

"Whatever turns them on," Friedgen said with a chuckle. "I've been trying to forget about that one, myself."

His players haven't.

"We went up there thinking we were going to blow them out," running back Lance Ball said. "We have to play this team like they were Florida State or any other big-time school. It's going to be hard."

Said corner Josh Wilson: "We went up to Northern Illinois and didn't think we were going to lose there and came back home with frowns. I don't know what you guys think, but [Temple] has got an incredible offense. They've got plays Virginia runs, Florida State runs - they have a real complex offense."

So why are the Owls averaging only 11 points a game?

"If I had the answer to that one," Wilson said, "I'd probably be coaching up there."

Statistically, this is a game Maryland should win. Of the 117 teams playing Division I-A football, Temple ranks worse than 103rd in 10 of 14 statistical categories. The Owls are 116th in scoring defense (51.8 points a game), 113th in scoring offense and last in pass efficiency.

In addition to the challenge of getting excited to play a team that has earned just three wins in its past 29 games, the Terps will play before what is likely to be the smallest crowd of the season.

Friedgen said he expected the atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field today to be like a "spring scrimmage." The venue holds 68,532, but the Owls' average home attendance has been slightly less than 9,000.

"If you're a competitor and care about being successful, you're going to be able to get up for a game like this," said senior receiver Danny Melendez. "If you're a competitor, no matter who you're playing, no matter if it's a peewee football team, you're going to want to play hard and get another victory."

Friedgen said there weren't any tricks or unusual motivational tools to inspire his team to play against a program that has had only one winning season in the past 20 years.

"All I can do is talk to them," he said. "I can demand they perform in practice. I try to be honest with them. I'm always very honest with my players. But if you're going to be the team you want to be, if you want to be the best you possibly could be, you have to be mentally tough to block out who you're playing, and you have to execute on that particular day."

If the players need any additional motivation, Ball said it's right in front of them.

"Friedgen likes to win," Ball said, "and if we lose, it will be a tough week."


Maryland (3-2, 2-1) @Temple (0-5)

Site -- Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Time -- 1 p.m.

Radio -- 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

Line -- Maryland by 28 1/2

Series -- Maryland leads 5-0

Last meeting -- Maryland 45, Temple 22 last year in College Park

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