Low key are the buzz words for the Maryland football team this week. No one is jumping up and down and yelling at practive. No one is building up Saturday's game with Penn State as the game of the year. Tough talk is being kept to aminimum by everyone from Athletic Director Carl James to coaches to players to managers.
"Last year Penn State week was really rah-rah, everyone yelling and going wild in practice everyday," said Jan Carinci, the team's leading receiver. "This week we haven't been doing that. There hasn't been any yelling or screaming like there was before, say, Clemson.
"It's been quiet, kind of. Everybody just thinking about what he has to do Saturday. Last year I think we left half our strength on the field because we went so crazy in practice."
From Coach Jerry Claiborne's point of view there is every reason to be low key for this game, to play it, as he puts it, "like any other game against an outstanding team." Next week the Terps travel to North Carolina State. That game could decide not only the Atlantic Coast Conference title but the Wolfpack, 4-0, might be a better team than Penn State.
Thus Claiborne does not want his players thinking this is the game of the year and either being on cloud nine or in the dumps all next week. "Beating Penn State is important.For our program the conference title is still the most important thing. We'd like to beat Penn State. We'd like to use the game as a catalyst for four ACC games coming up."
The fact that Penn State is 1-2 and Maryland 3-1 and neither ranked in the top 20 also has something to do with the atmosphere surrounding the game. Last year, when Penn State romped, 27-3, both teams were undefeated, the Lions were ranked second, the Terps fifth and the game was on national TV.
"The game certainly has lost a lot of its glitter," Carinci noted. "But we still want to win it badly. When you're 1-22 against someone over the years anytime you play them it's a big game."
The relatively loose atmosphere may also have something to to with the fact that only 14 Pennsylvanians, very few for A Claiborne-coached club, will be in red-and-white Saturday.
"Last year we had guys like (Neal) Olkewicz and (Mickey) Dudish who were team leaders who were Pennsylvanians," said offensive guard Paul Glamp, one of Saturday's game captains. "They went crazy the whole week. It isn't the same this year. We'll definintely be fired up to play by Saturday, but it isn't like this is IT, do or die."
"Some guys get real fired up because it's Penn State," safety Ralph Lary added. "To me it's just another game. Heck, they're not even a conference team like Clemson or N.C. State.
But they are Penn State and, for that reason, whether people around here admit it or not, this is a big week.
"I've never gone in for yelling anyway," said linebacker Brian Matera, the team's leading tackler with 60 hits. "When you're intense you can tell by the way you break out of the huddle. It's just a feeling you get. It has nothing to do with false chatter. We're intense this week. We'll be ready to play come Saturday."
The Pennsylvanians on the squad are more apt to admit the game is more than "just another" contest. Tailback Charlie Wysocki, the third leading rusher in the nation this week, is from Wilkes-Barre.
"Growing up all I ever heard was Penn State," Wysocki said as he dressed for practice yesterday. "I know when I go home I'll hear a lot about this game if we lose it. I don't want to do that.
"I know they've lost a couple but, hey, everyone knows they play good ball up there. They aren't going to come in here and roll over for us, I'm confident that we have a chance to win."
The fact that the game will be here, not in the 77,000-seat Beaver Stadium on the Penn State campus, will be important.
"They had us psyched out last year." Glamp said. "I don't know exactly what it was, the crowd maybe. There's a fine line between being psyched up and psyched out. Last year we were obviously psyched out. We played terrible. We don't want any kind of repeat performance this time around."
Several Penn State players noted earlier this week that Maryland should be psyched up as a result of the Nittany Lions' losses to Texas A&M and Nebraska. Coach Joe Paterno spent much of practice Monday telling his players that Maryland would be "smelling a win."
The Maryland players are aware of Penn State's new-found vulnerability.
"Let's face it, last year they had a great team, a really great team." Matera said. "But this is a new year. They're different, so are we."
Perhaps Carinci summed it best: "We know they're not the world-stoppers they've been in the past. But they were embarrassed on TV by Nebraska and they're going to come in here ready.
"You can say this is a big game for our program. It could be. But it's a big game for their program, too. They could be 1-3. We're both at the crossroads. Our season could go either way from here. That's why I think we'll be sky-high by 1:30 on Saturday. We're building to that, you can feel it."
Senior manager Ben Grylewicz has been holding for the team's kickers in practice for three years. Recently, Claiborne noticed he had become quite adept at the job. He had Grylewicz fill out an eligibility form and got him a uniform. If anything happens to Brent DeWitz, manager Grylewicz is the team's holder. . . Terps have been forced to practice on the AstroTurf all week because of the rain.