Now is not the time for the Maryland Terrapins to fall into more bad habits, and they know it.
The pushover part of Maryland's schedule ended Saturday with a strange 40-10 victory over Duke. Maryland, of course, was happy to win, but its performance was so bizarre the joy was tempered by awareness the Terrapins will only find trouble if they play that way against North Carolina (Saturday at Byrd Stadium), Miami, Clemson or Virginia.
"Hopefully, we'll get it together, soon," receiver Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof said. "Hopefully, next week."
In Annapolis, Coach Gary Tranquill still was savoring Navy's 21-7 upset of Pittsburgh. He had just finished watching game films and said, "It sure does look good. There are always little things, but I thought we executed well on both sides of the ball, and we made the big plays. Whenever that happens, it's fun."
Now, the question is whether the Midshipmen can sustain it. Navy travels to Notre Dame this week, then faces Syracuse, South Carolina and Army, and cannot afford any of its early season inconsistency.
"We'll have to wait until Saturday to find out," Tranquill said. "At least on paper the brunt of our schedule started two weeks ago. We're in it. I think we've played better over the last four weeks and we're starting to get it together, and that's pleasing. Maybe we've shaken it off, gotten out of the doldrums."
In College Park, the Terrapins have been hoping for weeks now that they will begin playing up to potential for an entire game. It hasn't happened.
"Sometimes, you'll play (to the level of) the opposition," defensive guard Bruce Mesner said.
Coach Bobby Ross searched for explanations also. "It's hard to read a team emotionally," Ross said. "During the week, we had some fine practices. We were sharp. I mean really, really sharp. But we come out and give them (Duke, which pulled into a 10-10 tie during the third quarter) that one play (a 52-yard kick return) which reestablishes momentum.
"We've got to play a full 60 minutes of football. We have to."
Navy did, especially with its rushing game, and its achievement against the nation's No. 2-ranked run defense looked even more impressive a day later. Napoleon McCallum gained 121 yards and third- and fourth-stringers Erich Sauerbrey and John McKenna at fullback combined with him to help Navy to 193 net yards. Coming into the game Pitt had been limiting opponents to 56.1 yards a game. Pitt had had 34 sacks, Tranquill noted.
"When a team is giving up only 1.6 yards (per run) you have to throw in a lot of sacks," he said. "So we didn't drop back a lot. We put in a lot of little stuff to keep them from rushing us. We didn't want to give them a chance to tee off on us."
So Tranquill instituted some new formations using two tight ends and more rollout passes. The Navy rushing plays, except McCallum's favorite off-tackle play and power sweep, consisted mostly of misdirection. There was a shovel pass, a flea flicker, and one reverse that produced 25 yards.
"We were really concerned about blocking them," the coach said.