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Friedgen Maintains Confidence in His Defense

By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Five days after last week's embarrassing loss to West Virginia, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said that his team is ready to move on.

Just as he did immediately after Thursday's 45-24 loss to the Mountaineers, Friedgen tried to focus on the positives in the aftermath of a blowout.

"I have a tremendous belief in our players," Friedgen said. "And at halftime I told them it would be a gut check, pride check, and they didn't disappoint me."

Friedgen reaffirmed his confidence in a defensive unit that allowed 340 rushing yards against the Mountaineers, saying that many of the problems can be fixed. Friedgen also said he wouldn't take over any additional duties on the defensive side of the ball.

"I have faith in the guys I hired," Friedgen said.

The coach said he watched film of the loss after the game and the following morning. The viewings left him with conflicting impressions.

"When I watched it after the game, I thought things were pretty bad defensively," Friedgen said. "Actually, after watching the tape [the next day], if we had done a better job executing some of the things we had, as we did in the second half, I actually started feeling better about it."

Maryland (2-1) hosts Florida International (0-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Golden Panthers have lost three games by a combined seven points, including back-to-back one-point losses to Middle Tennessee and South Florida.

Break in the Rivalry

After West Virginia visits Maryland next season for the 46th all-time meeting, the teams won't play again until 2010. The Terrapins instead will play California in a home-and-home exchange, with the Golden Bears coming to Byrd Stadium in 2008 and the Terps heading to Berkeley in 2009.

West Virginia Athletic Director Ed Pastilong said last week that Maryland asked out of the series to take the dates against California. But Pastilong said Maryland and West Virginia are scheduled for two more meetings in 2010 and 2011.

"If appropriate dates are open, then we'll discuss it," he said of the rivalry's future after the 2011 meeting.

Pastilong, who played quarterback for the Mountaineers in the mid-1960s, said he is interested in continuing a regional rivalry that started in 1919.

"It's easier on our teams for travel, easier for our fans," Pastilong said.

Turnover Troubles

The Terrapins rank 115th out of 119 Division I-A teams in average turnover margin (minus-two) heading into Saturday's game. Only Arkansas, North Carolina State, Kansas and Hawaii are worse.

"It continues to plague us, and unless we get that fixed, we're not going to get better," said Friedgen, who watched the Terps turn over the ball a season-high five times against West Virginia. "That has to happen and we have to find a way to do that."

Maryland's turnover numbers have proved to be an accurate barometer during Friedgen's tenure. In his first three seasons, Maryland finished plus-17 in turnovers. But the Terps are minus-20 over the last three seasons, including minus-six this season.

Clig Pulls Hamstring

Reserve right guard Garrick Clig suffered a pulled hamstring in practice Monday and is questionable for Saturday's game. Clig saw significant playing time against West Virginia because starter Andrew Crummey still was nursing a hamstring injury, though Crummey started against the Mountaineers. . . .

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach bruised his throwing (right) hand after banging it against a helmet while making a throw against West Virginia. Friedgen said X-rays weren't necessary and that he is expected to play against Florida International. . . .

Starting cornerback Josh Wilson wore a walking boot on his right foot after yesterday's practice. . . .

The Terrapins have had three plays reviewed under instant replay, though none has resulted in an overturned call. . . .

Special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski said punter Adam Podlesh and backup place kicker Chris Roberts may get a chance to kick off on Saturday. Obi Egekeze has handled kickoffs this season, but Rychleski said he wants a kicker who can make a tackle to help bolster kick coverage. He said Podlesh and Roberts are better tacklers than Egekeze.

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