Despite their determined play, the Deacons were not even coming close against Atlantic Coast Conference rivals -- North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia averaged 33.6 points against them in one-sided victories.
But last Saturday, Wake Forest underwent a metamorphosis at Vanderbilt, crushing the Commodores, 40-6. Suddenly, the Maryland alumni are not so confident of an easy time this weekend.
Nothing seems to come easily for rookie coach Mark Duffner's Terrapins.
"There should not be any problem in respecting Wake Forest," Duffner said yesterday. "The fact is where we are [1-5 record, 0-3 in the league], we've still got plenty to prove. They have a doggone good football team. That's not hype. It's fact."
"We're not looking past them by any means," said Maryland quarterback John Kaleo. "They're coming off a big win and should be an emotional group. And we've beaten them in the past. They'll be trying to get us back."
A flashback is all the Deacons need for motivation. Last season in Winston-Salem, N.C., they had a 22-17 lead with 2:01 remaining, only to watch Maryland drive almost the length of the field in 27 seconds for the winning touchdown.
It was Maryland's 10th victory in the past 12 meetings in the series.
As usual, Duffner was upbeat at his weekly news conference yesterday, three days after a distressing 28-26 defeat at the hands of Georgia Tech that included the surrender of a Hail Mary touchdown pass just before the half, and a number of botched opportunities on offense.
"We're going to turn that frustration into determination and 20-20 focus," Duffner said. "We've had some tough breaks against us, but we're going to keep working on it.
"The question is, can we make the plays against the top teams in the country? Sure, it's frustrating to be sitting at that record. We haven't had that habitual feeling of winning. But we don't talk as much about that as what they [the players] have done. I'm proud of their efforts."
Maryland's no-huddle, run-and-shoot offense continues to gobble up the yardage -- the Terps are ranked 15th nationally at 450.83 yards per game -- but Wake Forest was opportunistic in its last game, particularly senior cornerback George Coghill.
He returned an interception 60 yards for one touchdown, then scooped up a fumble and ran 83 yards for another touchdown.
Duffner said the Deacons' defense has speed to match "anybody we play."
And the beleaguered Terps defense will be confronted with a different look from Wake Forest quarterback Keith West.
"He will challenge our contain people," said Duffner. "He's a sprint-out player, and we haven't seen much of that. This team is a little more on the running side than passing, but they will not hesitate to throw the ball deep."
Another Deacon worth watching is backup tailback Ned Moultrie, who scored three touchdowns last week and gained 63 yards on only six carries.
Wake Forest coach Bill Dooley, who is retiring after this season, said Maryland "could very easily have three or four wins. I know that Maryland wants to get a win after so many close calls, but I know that our team wants to build on our win at Vanderbilt, too."
NOTES: Duffner is expecting linebacker Jaime Flores (Poly) to "return to help us pressure the quarterback," and superback Larry Washington (Randallstown) is questionable for Saturday with a knee injury, though he is able to ride a bike. Defensive back Andre Vaughn (Oakland Mills) is being withheld from contact because of an injured shoulder. . . . The Terps are getting better in the fourth period. Maryland has outscored the opposition in the last two games, 24-7, in the final period. . . .
The attorney for WR Kevin Washington, from Dunbar High, has filed a continuance on behalf of his client, who was to appear in Prince George's District Court on Oct. 23. Richard Bury, an administrator for the Prince George's County District Court, said a new date is likely to be set.
Bury also said Harvey Siegel, Washington's attorney, is negotiating a plea arrangement. Washington, who was expelled from the team by Duffner, was charged with three counts of felony forgery and nine counts of misdemeanor theft in August.