Three reasons for the Terps' turnaround this season

Plus-10 turnover margin, consistency at QB, fortunate scheduling have boosted Maryland

October 31, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — Not a day goes by, Ralph Friedgen says, that he doesn't think about last year's 2-10 downer of a season.

It's not because the Maryland coach is masochistic. Rather, he and the Terps have used it as motivation in forging a 6-2 record (3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) that has made them eligible to return to a bowl game.

"That was probably the worst season I've ever had," Friedgen said Sunday in his media conference call. "Probably the most rewarding thing of that season was the effort of our players. But, still, the results were tough to live by. It makes it more rewarding this year that we've been able to win these games."

Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien was redshirted last season, watching from the sideline. "We vowed right after that season that it wasn't going to happen again," O'Brien said after the Terps routed Wake Forest, 62-14, on Saturday to become bowl-eligible for the fourth time in five years.

O'Brien — who has thrown seven touchdown passes in the past two games — is a big factor in Maryland's turnaround.

Here are three reasons the Terps are a different team so far:

Turnovers: Last season, Maryland was plagued by turnovers. The Terps threw 10 interceptions, lost 14 fumbles and ended the season minus-6 in turnover margin — next to last in the ACC behind only North Carolina State.

This year, the Terps are plus-10 in turnover margin — the leading differential in the ACC.

With four regular-season games to play, Maryland has more interceptions (11) than it had all last year. Players say they are more comfortable in the multiple-blitz system of second-year defensive coordinator Don Brown than they were a year ago.

Quarterback consistency: Maryland began the season with Jamarr Robinson as the starter. Robinson still plays, but O'Brien's development in the West Coast offense has brightened the outlook for this season and the next several years.

O'Brien will enter the Miami game on a hot streak. In his past two games, he is 40-for-60 for 350 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions.

Maryland's pass efficiency rating last season was 116.8 — 10th in the ACC.

This season, the Terps are fourth in the conference at 135.2.

Fortunate scheduling to date: Maryland's conference wins have come against three teams (Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest) with a combined 2-12 ACC record.

On the plus side for Maryland is the way the Terps have handled these games. Maryland bolted to leads of 24-7 over Boston College and 27-7 over Wake Forest the past two weeks.

Up next for the Terps is Miami (5-3, 3-2 ACC), which was upset, 24-19, at Virginia on Saturday. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris suffered a concussion in the game, and his status for the Maryland game is uncertain.

"That's going to be a test for us to see where we are as a program," Friedgen said of Saturday's Miami game, which will start at noon. "I'm anxious to see where we're at."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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