For UM, no place like home

November 15, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,

COLLEGE PARK - Its bleacher seats might not be the most comfortable, but there's one thing about Byrd Stadium that Maryland fans appreciate: The Terrapins usually win there.

The Terps enter today's home game against No. 17 North Carolina 5-0 at Byrd this season. They're 38-11 under coach Ralph Friedgen at home, where they were undefeated in 2001 and 2003.

On the road, it's quite another story.

Although most teams fare better in their own stadium, Maryland's home-road differential is particularly pronounced. The Terps have a split personality.

Consider the numbers:

* The Terrapins score 31 points a game this season at home, where they defeated two teams this season - California and Wake Forest - that entered nationally ranked. On the road, the Terps are 1-3 and average 12 points.

* Maryland's all-important running game averages 197 yards at home but only 84 on the road. The Terps had minus-12 rushing yards in losing 23-13 at Virginia Tech in their most recent game.

* Maryland surrenders an average of 24 points on the road, compared with 16 at Byrd.

Maryland's only road win came at Clemson, 20-17, in a game the Terrapins trailed 17-6 at the half. The victory seemed to give the Terps confidence that they could overcome a boisterous, opposing crowd. But Maryland was routed at Virginia, 31-0, the next week.

Maryland coaches have tried to tinker with away-game routines to improve the team's play. They've experimented with arriving at the hotel later so players have less time sitting around - and maybe worrying - before the game.

But there's only so much coaches can do. They believe it's human nature for players to elevate their performances in a supportive environment.

"All your family and friends cheering for you is a magical experience," offensive coordinator James Franklin said. "You go into somebody else's stadium, it's a different deal."

Franklin said many college football teams, not just the Terps, struggle on the road. He said that's particularly true in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. It's a year in which most of the teams in the conference have struggled with consistency.

Home-road records also diverge sharply in professional sports, where teams often become weary with travel. In the NBA, players often fly to away games in the middle of the night. They play one game, then immediately travel to the next stop.

Maryland players don't travel that often, but they cope with disruptions when they do.

"When I'm home, I go to the team hotel and I have my routine," senior linebacker Dave Philistin said. "I go in and I set up my stuff."

To avoid distractions, the Terps, a half game back in the ACC's Atlantic Division, stay in a hotel the night before a game whether they are home or away. Two of Maryland's final three games are at home.

On the road, Philistin said: "I've got to pack all my stuff that Thursday for it to be shipped. I'm always like, 'Did I forget my cleats?' And then we have all this time to lay over."

There is also the noise of the road crowd to contend with. The Terps committed a handful of illegal-motion penalties in their victory at Clemson, a notoriously difficult place to play. Friedgen said afterward that he worried the crowd might have disrupted the offense's timing.

Maryland quarterback Chris Turner practiced using a silent count before the loss to Virginia Tech on Nov. 6.

One thing Franklin has noticed is that his older players tend to adjust better to playing away from Byrd.

Senior wide receiver Danny Oquendo, for example, said he likes it when opposing fans boo the Terps. He says it motivates him to play well.

NO. 17 UNC (7-2, 3-2 ACC) @ MARYLAND (6-3, 3-2)

Today, 3:30 p.m.

TV: Chs. 2, 7

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Line: UNC by 3

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