NCF Nation: Jamari McCullough
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."