To push UM, Friedgen pulls out bowl stories


COLLEGE PARK -- In a final attempt to motivate his players this week, Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen tempted them with stories of the lucrative perks that come with playing in a bowl game.

He told them about the small digital cameras presented to one of his teams, the Gator Bowl rings other players earned, and the hundreds of dollars worth of clothing and gear they are allowed to receive.

"That shouldn't be the main reason for wanting to go," Friedgen said, "but who knows? I'm hitting all the buttons I can right now."

That's because Maryland (4-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) needs to win two of its last three games to become bowl eligible and avoid a repeat of last year's 5-6 season. Unfortunately for the Terps, North Carolina (4-4, 3-2) is in exactly the same position and coming off a 16-14 upset of Boston College.

"They're a blue-collar, hard-working team just like we are," said defensive tackle Dre Moore, a North Carolina native who will earn his first collegiate start today. "Us making a bowl will solidify our season and say we had a successful year. A lot of people think we're young and a lot of other things. I think it will be a big positive for this team and the team's morale to win out and win a bowl game."

The Terps are facing the same situation they did last year at this point in the season - four wins with two of their final three games on the road. Maryland was outscored 78-19 in its final three games last fall, and won only one.

"I think we're a lot better team than what we were last year," Friedgen said. "We've just got to go out and show people how good we can play."

Maryland will face Boston College at home next Saturday before ending the season Nov. 26 at North Carolina State. Junior quarterback Sam Hollenbach, who is to start today for the first time since Oct. 20 when he injured his shoulder in a loss to Virginia Tech, said the importance of postseason play this year is immeasurable.

"It's huge right now," Hollenbach said. "We've gone through some things obviously that ... we need to get back to focusing on football, limiting our mistakes. Once we start doing that, I think it will become more fun and we'll get back into a rhythm. Obviously this next game and the two after it are huge."

The Terps haven't played since their 35-27 loss to Florida State on Oct. 29. Maryland had a tumultuous bye week that included the suspension of four players, three of whom were involved in an altercation at a downtown College Park bar. Friedgen didn't talk specifically about the week's disciplinary measures, but he did say Thursday that nobody in the program - including himself - can let it be a distraction.

"Sometimes you lose sight of the long-range goal," he said. "The long-range goal is to eventually win a national championship. And I said every decision that we make in this program - whether it's recruits, personnel or discipline, anything - our rules, how we govern ourselves, they are all based on ending up at that one goal at the end. ... We can't let distractions take us away from what we're here to do."

The players agreed a bowl appearance would be worth more to the program than merely freebies.

"It's real important," said Ricardo Dickerson, a fifth-year senior who has been to three bowl games with the program. "This is my fifth year here. I went to three bowls. Just that feeling of not going to a bowl, in a sense we probably got spoiled around here. We want this program to go nowhere but up. It won't be a good thing around here if Maryland doesn't go to a bowl game. I know the fans and the people around here want to see us do that."

Friedgen is 40-18 at Maryland. He has been to three bowl games in four seasons. If Maryland doesn't make another one this year, he said it won't be the end of the program.

"But I think it's important to continue the momentum," he said. "It's really going to come down to how badly we want to go to a bowl game."

And how bad North Carolina wants to.

Maryland@North Carolina

Today, noon, chs. 13, 20, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: UNC by 3

Today's game

Maryland (4-4, 2-3) @N. Carolina (4-4, 3-2)

Site -- Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Time -- Noon

TV/Radio -- Chs. 13, 20/1300 AM, 105.7 FM

Line -- North Carolina by 3

Series -- North Carolina leads 35-29-1

Last meeting -- Maryland defeated North Carolina, 59-21, in 2003 in College Park

Maryland offense vs. North Carolina defense -- The Tar Heels will try to make Maryland one-dimensional by taking away its running game, which is led by Lance Ball. North Carolina has a tendency to put eight or nine players in the box, and its safeties are very active.

Maryland defense vs. North Carolina offense -- Statistically, Maryland's defense hasn't stood out this year, with an ACC ranking of 11th in scoring defense. The big stop might have to come from Maryland's special teams. The Tar Heels are ranked fourth in the country with an average of 27.4 yards per kickoff return.

Heather A. Dinich

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