Maryland's Ralph Friedgen says he's not giving up on his team

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 12:17 AM

His voice occasionally choked with emotion, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen reaffirmed belief in his team Tuesday while also echoing many of the sentiments he expressed during the animated rant that followed the Terrapins' 31-7 loss at Clemson on Saturday.

For a season and a half, Friedgen exhibited patience as his young team incrementally grew from a non-competitive team to one capable of beating mostly inferior competition. But he has become frustrated by his team's unforced errors and inability to win on the road, where the Terrapins have not won in more than two years.

"I'm pulling for these guys," Friedgen said. "I want to see them be successful. I went through a tough year with them last year, hung with them. I see them getting better. I guess maybe I want it so much for them, it frustrates me at times."

After the mistake-filled loss at Clemson, Friedgen spent nine minutes Saturday mostly criticizing his team for not being smart, adding that he would start to hold "people's feet to the fire" if mistakes continued. Friedgen did not show that level of irritation publicly after the Sept. 18 loss at West Virginia or at any point during the disastrous 2009 season, including the season-opening 52-13 loss at California.

Some Maryland players were surprised at Saturday's postgame outburst considering the Terrapins (4-2, 1-1 ACC) outgained Clemson, 350 yards to 213, and looked formidable offensively and defensively for much of the first half. If not for special teams blunders and penalties, the game could have been competitive.

"We were kind of surprised at how irate he was after the game," defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. "But when you've been doing it as long as he has, you feel like every loss hurts a little more. We lose a game and go, 'Well, we can go at it next week.' He's coming more from the frame of thought that every game we have to win."

Friedgen did not elaborate when asked Tuesday how he planned to hold players accountable for mistakes in games. But he said that he is working as hard as ever, evaluating personnel and monitoring offensive and defensive staff meetings. "If I have to hold myself to account I will," he said.

Friedgen said the Terrapins played well enough for at least a half to win the game, and that his team played hard. He backtracked on postgame comments that the team started the third quarter "flat as hell" and said Tuesday that the team appeared confident at halftime that it could overcome a 10-point deficit.

The primary source of aggravation, in the Clemson loss and throughout most of the season, has been an inordinate number of penalties. The Terrapins, who rank 11th in the ACC in penalty yards per game, committed 10 penalties for 93 yards on Saturday.

Friedgen said false-start penalties could be attributed to a young offensive line's struggles to deal with crowd noise. At times, Maryland used a silent count at the line of scrimmage, but Clemson defensive linemen astutely flinched before the snap, causing some offensive linemen to move prematurely.

"I think we have a kid [Danny O'Brien] here who's going to be a pretty good quarterback," Friedgen said. "I know we've got some weapons who can do something. When we nullify that with penalties, that is frustrating to me. I'm sorry. That's the way it is. I want something so bad and I just see how much progress we have made. We have to try to get through this."

Among the changes to be made: Coaches planned to have officials take part in practice Tuesday and Wednesday in an effort to reduce penalties.

Because kick returner Torrey Smith still cannot cut effectively because of an ankle injury, coaches are contemplating using another player - perhaps Dexter McDougle, Trenton Hughes or Tony Logan - as a returner. Maryland ranks 119th (out of 120 division I-A teams) in kickoff returns.

At quarterback, redshirt freshman O'Brien will continue to start, but Friedgen said he sees potential for athletic backup Jamarr Robinson. Friedgen would like Robinson, who was used sparingly Saturday, to learn to run a different offense because it would complicate opponents' game week preparation.

But above all else, the primary challenge is to maintain poise on the road and figure out a way to snap a 10-game road losing streak.

"It's about time we start maturing," Friedgen said, "and grow up and are able to do that."

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