NCF Nation: College Park 0812

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen considered making his team practice at 5 a.m. the day after the Terps' embarrassing loss at Virginia Tech last week. He thought about giving them what he called "the Wrath of Ralph."

 
  AP Photo/Nick Wass
 Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen's Terps have had an up and down season.

"After last week I was upset," Friedgen said, "very upset."

This week, after his team's win over North Carolina, Friedgen got choked up, and his eyes welled when he talked about "the affection" he has for this team.

As the Terps' unpredictable roller coaster of a season has gone, so have the emotions of their head coach.

"It's been up and down," Friedgen said. "I have such affection for these kids. I'm very, very proud of them. It's like when you see your children don't do well and you want them to do well. Sometimes you don't know whether to scold them or cuddle them. It's kind of that type of deal with these guys."

Not even Friedgen knows what to expect from his players. Good luck trying to figure out the entire ACC when one of the top teams in the running to win the Atlantic Division goes from flop to frontrunner within a week.

With their 17-15 win over North Carolina on Saturday, Maryland has now won all four of its games against ranked opponents this season, and six straight over the past two seasons. During that time span, they're 5-8 against everyone else.

In 12 weeks, Maryland has managed to dominate Cal and Wake Forest, beat Clemson on the road, and lose to Middle Tennessee and a Virginia team that decided to use the Terps as their turning point. The Terps needed everything they had to beat Delaware 14-7 and a struggling NC State team 27-24.

"It's been unbelievable all year," said Maryland quarterback Chris Turner. "It seems like we get a huge win after a devastating loss every week. A lot of it has to do with playing at home. We like playing at home."

Turner, who threw three interceptions in a loss at Middle Tennessee, has yet to throw one against a ranked opponent. He's thrown 13 interceptions against unranked opponents.

There are all kinds of places to look for answers about this team. Maryland improved to 7-0 in day games, and is 0-3 in night games. The difference between this week's Maryland team (3:30 p.m. kickoff) and last week's 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Blacksburg? Day and night.

The Terps couldn't stop the run last week, nor could they run. Against UNC on Saturday, they did both.

Friedgen can't figure it out.

"I'd like to tell you it's great coaching," he said. "It's really kids that rise to the occasion. It also tells you what kind of schedule we have. ... I think we play better at home for some reason."

There's no question about it.

The one consistent thing about Maryland this year has been its ability to take care of business in Byrd Stadium. The Terps are undefeated at home.

"That wasn't us," cornerback Jamari McCullough said of last week's 23-13 loss to the Hokies. "That wasn't us. To me, we've been struggling on the road. We've got to get better playing on the road in hostile environments. ... When we come here, it's like a whole different environment. I guess everybody just has the mentality, this is our house. Like the commercial guy, we must protect this house."

Because Maryland is hardly the only ACC team with a few losses this season, the Terps have been granted a few second chances.

"Luck is on our side right now," said receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. "We love playing at home. I mean it's crazy, but I feel like this year is special. It really is special. I'm happy to be a part of it. I think the coaches see it, I think the players feel it."

ACC still up for grabs

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
10:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- One week after looking hopeless and hapless at Virginia Tech, Maryland looked capable of winning the ACC title. And one week after embarrassing Maryland, the Hokies took a step back at Miami.

And North Carolina State? They played spoiler today with their win over Wake Forest. Don't look now, but Boston College is in the midst of doing the same to Florida State.

Wacky?

"It's not wacky, it's good," said Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, grinning ear to ear. "It's like a movie, you know? You don't want to watch those other conferences. You already know who's going to be in the championship. We've got no idea."

That's putting it mildly. The ending to this "movie" hasn't even been written yet. Every week seems to mean so much and yet seems to answer so little.

If Florida State makes a comeback against Boston College, the Nov. 22 game here in Byrd Stadium will be a playoff for the Atlantic Division. If Boston College wins, Maryland will have to win out, but so will Boston College, and the two teams meet in the season finale in Chestnut Hill.

As for the Coastal Division, North Carolina's loss puts Miami in sole possession of first place. North Carolina all but played itself out of the race because they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to Virginia and Virginia Tech. In order for UNC to win, the Tar Heels would have to win out, and Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech would all have to lose again.

Four Coastal Division teams have three losses, and if Miami loses to Georgia Tech next week, well, then the ACC should have its own category on Jeopardy.

"It's crazy," said Maryland cornerback Jamari McCollough. "It's like a circus. Anything can happen."

For the 12th straight week, anything did.

Final: MD 17, UNC 15

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
6:54
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland had time on its side the whole game, the game-winning scoring drive included. Maryland took 8:53 off the clock on its final possession, and in the process set UNC back in the Coastal Division race. That was exactly what Miami needed, although it's still too early to count the Heels out entirely.

Maryland did exactly the opposite of what it did a week ago -- The Terps ran the ball and stopped the run. UNC couldn't get enough big plays or stop the Terps' running game. Maryland got one step closer in the Atlantic Division race.

Heading to interviews now. Check back later.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland can run all day on these guys and it won't matter as long as they're not running into the end zone. Maryland continues to control the clock, but has little to show for it. And North Carolina's big plays are negated when the field goal attempt bounces off the left upright.

Maryland's defense deserves credit for a dramatic improvement. North Carolina's running game has been stuffed and the Maryland defense has prevented anyone from having a career day. Maryland has been particularly good on third down, especially considering the Tar Heels are the ACC's most successful team on third down conversions.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Remarkable. Not the game, the straight-out-of-a-painting rainbow that stretched right over Byrd Stadium and into the baseball field in the second quarter. Seriously, weirdest weather here, and it's only fitting, because just like Maryland, it's been impossible to predict.

What stands out in this game so far is that Maryland's running game does indeed exist. It helps that fullback Cory Jackson is healthy and able to block. Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett are taking turns eating up the clock and wearing out the Tar Heels' defense. Both are en route to 100-yard performances. UNC linebacker Quan Sturdivant can't stop them by himself, although he's giving it his best shot.

In the first quarter alone, Maryland had the ball for 11:46 compared to UNC's 3:14. The Tar Heels only ran eight plays, compared to Maryland's 25. Funny thing is, they haven't needed the ball long in this game to take the lead. Everytime it looks like Maryland is finally going to separate itself, UNC manages a big play.

For Maryland to win, the Terps need to keep doing what they're doing. UNC needs to win the field position battle in the second half, hang onto the ball, convert on third downs, and make some stops on defense.

If they can continue to do that and hold onto the ball in this rain, the Terps should beat their sixth ranked team in as many tries.

Greetings from College Park

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
1:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

  

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Hello from Byrd Stadium, where it's hard to tell it's game day. Granted, I was here almost three hours early, but there are two teams in contention for the ACC championship game playing here today.

North Carolina is a disciplined road team, losing only to Virginia in overtime. Both teams, though, can still win their respective divisions. Here are a few keys to this game:

1. Turnovers. Rain is expected here today, and North Carolina is second in the league behind Wake Forest in turnover margin and is tied for nation's lead in interceptions. Maryland, namely running back Da'Rel Scott, will have to hang onto the ball today, and the Tar Heels will have to force poised quarterback Chris Turner into a few mistakes.

2. The running game. Scott isn't completely 100 percent, but he is still the second leading rusher in the ACC. Maryland's inability to run the ball last week against Virginia Tech combined with its inability to stop the run cost them the game and it could again. On the other side, North Carolina needs another standout performance from the duo of Ryan Houston and Sean Draughn.

3. Limit each other's big-play receivers. Hakeem Nicks and Darrius Heyward-Bey are two of the top receivers in the ACC, and both are capable of game-changing plays. In order to fluster Chris Turner, the Tar Heels will have to get past a line that has allowed a league-low five sacks this season.

4. Intangibles. Whichever team can forget about what's at stake and execute their assignments has the best chance of winning. Both teams are in must-win situations. Maryland has not lost at home.

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