Terps have ACC championship in their sights

Wins over Florida State, N.C. State could make their goal a reality

November 14, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — Before the season began, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen listed a series of goals for his players on a white screen with black lettering.

The goals began with "Beat the next opponent," "Win a minimum of 7 games" and "Win the Atlantic Division," and proceeded to "Win the ACC championship" and "Finish in the Top 25," among others.

With two regular-season games remaining, Maryland is still within reach of most of its aims -- including the ambitious goal of claiming its first Atlantic Coast Conference title since 2001.

After being 2-10 a year ago, the Terps (7-3, 4-2 ACC) could hardly feel better-positioned.

Granted, there are two difficult games ahead, both at Byrd Stadium. On Saturday, Maryland hosts Florida State (5-2 ACC), which leads the Atlantic Division by a half game. The Terps then face North Carolina State (4-2 ACC), which is tied with them.

Maryland would need to win both games to claim the division title and a berth in the ACC title game against the Coastal Division winner. Virginia Tech (6-0 ACC) leads the Coastal with Miami second at 5-2. The championship game is Dec. 4 in Charlotte, N.C.

Friedgen said Sunday that he likens Maryland's situation to the NCAA basketball tournament: One loss and the Terps are out.

"Each game from here on out is a round," Friedgen said he told his players. "If you win out, you're going to win the championship. They kind of took to that."

Friedgen said he is not inclined to think about his coaching future beyond this season. "I don't know what my future is going to be. I just worry about next week," Friedgen said. His contract expires after next season.

Maryland last hosted the Seminoles in 2008. The Terps were 4-2 then, just as they are now. Florida State blasted the Terps, 37-3.

"That was my redshirt freshman year," said wide receiver Torrey Smith, who had seven receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown in a 42-23 victory at Virginia on Saturday. "This is a different team. This Maryland team has never lost to Florida State."

The 2008 contest -- a night game -- attracted an announced 51,620 fans, the biggest home crowd that season. Friedgen is hoping for a similar atmosphere Saturday.

"I'm hoping we have a full house," the coach said. "How much better could it get? We're in this thing, and we have to win Saturday night to stay in. I hope people don't just stay in and watch it [on TV]. That's what we wanted here, isn't it?"

Maryland has won this season with big plays. The Terps, who had just eight plays of 50 yards or longer in 2009, have doubled that total this season.

Maryland had some good fortune against Virginia.

Trailing 23-21, the Terps kept a drive going late in the third quarter on an unusual play. Danny O'Brien's third-and-14 pass deflected off linebacker Darnell Carter into the hands of Maryland's LaQuan Williams (Poly) for a 26-yard gain to the Virginia 34.

Friedgen called it "the critical in the game. We're losing 23-21. It could have been an interception."

Did Friedgen consider his team lucky?

"I think we've been getting some of those plays," the coach said. "I think those things even out."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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