With three days remaining before Saturday's season opener against Penn State, the toughest assignment for Maryland football Coach Bobby Ross could be addressing all the questions about how his team might break Penn State's 27-1 hold on the Terrapins.
Asked yesterday at his weekly press luncheon how he will discuss "the Penn State situation" with his players, Ross said: "What is the Maryland-Penn State situation?
"That's how I address it."
The upperclassmen on this Maryland team have lost twice to Penn State, which has won 20 straight games in the series. But Ross insisted the team won't spend any time planning or even talking of vindication.
"I don't think there's any way to approach it but to take it like any other game," Ross said. " . . . Everybody's looking for some profound statement on my part; I don't have it.
"We really have not talked about Penn State, emotionally. We've told them what we have to do offensively, defensively, and on special teams, too. But we haven't addressed much else. What we've attempted to do, in fact, is keep the emotional elements out of (this week's preparation).
"I don't want us to be tight and tensed up. I want us to be relaxed. There's a tremendous amount of pressure on us, from the standpoint of where we've been picked (as high as No. 1 in the preseason polls)."
Ross said that after watching films of the Nittany Lions, he feels the two teams are virtually even, which still is an improvement for Maryland.
"We match up better with Penn State than we have the last two games," Ross said. "We're so evenly matched that no one individual seems that critical.
"If you're looking for a key matchup it's probably our offense, with seven senior starters, against their defense with eight senior starters."
Ross said junior running back Tommy Neal has about a 40 percent chance of playing Saturday. Chad Sydnor, a redshirt freshman who would have been the top backup cornerback, apparently will not play because of tendinitis in his shins -- "not unless he makes a miraculous recovery," Ross said.
John Sorna, a sophomore right offensive tackle who suffered a broken foot recently, should be back for Boston College the following week.
Penn State didn't determine its starting guarterback until Saturday, when Coach Joe Paterno selected John Shaffer over Matt Knizner. Many people feel the Lions will be at a disadvantage offensively because of the late decision. But Paterno said recently he is encouraged by the preseason performances of both.
"John is the steadier and has more experience," he said. " . . . I know Matt won't let up. He'll keep the pressure on."