Tension exists within the ranks of Maryland's coaching staff. So does a feeling of urgency and even a little feistiness among coaches. In truth, that's just how Coach Ralph Friedgen wants the tenor of staff meetings.
Yesterday, coaches voted in the presidential election, which reduced the time they have to craft a game plan for Saturday's game at Virginia by one hour. And last week, the tension mounted because of frustration, perhaps even exhaustion, as offensive coaches collaborated on a scheme to exploit Florida State's defense.
They exchanged ideas, some wilder than others. They even argued at times. And, of course, offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe held veto power. Whatever the impetus, the competitive banter worked, as Maryland compiled 387 yards, more than the Terps (4-4, 2-3 ACC) had recorded in their three previous games combined.
"Whether it was lack of sleep or from working really hard," Friedgen said, "I felt there was a tension on the staff that I had not witnessed since I've been here. I don't think that's all bad. It showed their commitment. . . . I like conflict. When things are going too smoothly, I worry about it."
Players didn't celebrate too long after Saturday night's 20-17 victory over Florida State because the upcoming challenge, at least in Friedgen's eyes, might be more dangerous than the Seminoles. Virginia, whose only loss came at Florida State, will be eager to avenge last season's loss to Maryland, during which intensity rose because of the trash-talking that had taken place beforehand.
At least now, though, Maryland players feel they have resurrected their season. The Terps need two wins in their remaining three games to become bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season.
"It feels better, to say the least," senior captain Domonique Foxworth said. "The atmosphere around here has changed tremendously."
Before the season, Friedgen said, there was a feeling among the young players that success was almost ensured after three straight 10-win seasons. Then frustration came when players' hard work was not rewarded with immediate success. With three games remaining, players, both young and experienced, realize many of their goals are still in sight.
"In the middle of the season, we didn't really adjust our goals," Foxworth said. "But we're back on track now."
Degrees of Success
During Friedgen's three-year tenure, 58 of 66 eligible seniors have graduated, Maryland has announced. All 19 of the current football seniors are on track to graduate during the 2004-05 academic year.
Overall, Maryland's scholarship student-athletes who entered college in the fall of 1997 graduated at a 67 percent rate, according to data recently released by the NCAA and the Department of Education. That is the school's second-best mark in the past seven years. Four Maryland programs -- gymnastics, women's soccer, women's tennis and women's track and field -- graduated 100 percent of their student-athletes.
Friedgen Thanks Fans
Friedgen commended the behavior of the fans after the Florida State game and met the group of students that created what he described as a 400-square-foot banner that was displayed in the upper deck Saturday. The banner's message: Protect this house.
"I'm really proud with the way the fans handled themselves after the game," Friedgen said. "I think we're learning in football and basketball how to handle big wins."
Maryland is expected to be without offensive lineman Brandon Nixon, who has yet to recover from a high ankle sprain. Wide receiver Dan Melendez is doubtful because of an undisclosed injury. Linebacker Wesley Jefferson and tight end Rob Abiamiri are questionable because of undisclosed injuries. Wide receiver Steve Suter (hamstring) and safety Ray Custis (groin) are probable. Wide receiver Derrick Fenner, who was limited against Florida State, has fully recovered from an ankle injury. . . . Friedgen said Florida State's interior defensive linemen were the toughest he has ever remembered seeing in college football.