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Terps reach deep to find way vs. Fla. State


COLLEGE PARK - The pre-game speeches in the Maryland locker room tonight might be a lot more interesting than the game if the No. 2-ranked Florida State Seminoles devour the Terrapins the way early everybody expects them to do.

"I'm sure a lot of our guys are going to have something to say," said junior center Melvin Fowler, who has been the team's rock on the offensive line all year. "I know I'm going to get my two cents worth in to the offensive linemen. I'm going to try to give them confidence and ask them to play physical and smart."

Tri-captain Aaron Thompson is expected to have a lot to say and Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden will talk. But Thompson and Vanderlinden weren't divulging their themes.

It's safe to say there will be a lot of emotions spilling out of a 2-1 team that needs a major shot in the arm to reach the high pre-season expectations it had.

And just what will the pre-game scene be like in the Florida State (4-0) locker room?

Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden has a plan for the 8 o'clock ESPN Thursday night game of the week before an expected near-sellout crowd at Byrd Stadium.

"We're going to let Tommy Polley address our team," Bowden said. "He's fired up for this game."

This is a lot more than a homecoming for the former Dunbar High football and basketball standout.

Polley, a 6-foot-5 senior All-America linebacker candidate, will be renewing acquaintances with three members of the Maryland team whose lives have been intertwined with his through football and life.

Senior Terps running back LaMont Jordan and Polley are linked through three years of intense personal duels on the football field that have resulted in a lot of mutual respect.

"I like playing against Tommy Polley," Jordan said. "He talks a lot. He lets you know he's going to be there every time you come his way."

When Jordan was told that Polley said he is coming to town tonight "to show off," Jordan said, "I think Tommy shows off every game."

Polley called Jordan "one of the best one or two backs in the nation. Anytime you're playing against a potential high first-round draft [NFL] pick, you better come in with your hard hat on."

Thompson, Maryland's junior linebacker, and Polley have been battling in football since their Northwood little league days in Baltimore, back when Thompson was a running back and Polley was already a linebacker. The Thompson-Polley encounters continued in high school, where Thompson was still a running back for Forest Park and Polley was a linebacker at Dunbar.

Thompson said of Polley: "He was definitely a good athlete. I didn't really care for him when we were younger because his team and mine were always competing for a conference title. He was from the east side and I lived on the west."

But now things have changed as Thompson is still seeking a first victory over Polley at the high school or collegiate level. "We meet and talk after every game we play," Thompson said.

A third Maryland player, starting inside linebacker E. J. Henderson grew up near Polley in Aberdeen before Polley moved to Baltimore at the age of 10.

While emotions will be higher than usual for Jordan, Polley, Thompson and Henderson, Maryland quarterback Calvin McCall talked stoically about his team's ACC opener.

"The only thing that matters is what happens between the lines," said McCall, who has completed 40 of 59 passes for 572 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions in the past two games.

"I'm not even concerned about the fact that the game is nearly sold out. I guess it's because they're all showing up to see Florida State. Where were all these people Saturday night [a crowd of 31,126 at Byrd, which seats 58,055]? The fans don't mean anything to me."

Junior Terps wide receiver Guilian Gary agreed with McCall, "People are coming out just to see Florida State. Everybody here may be rooting against us. It's a chance for us to show everybody what we can do."

Jordan said of the prospects of a big pro-Florida State crowd: "That could be the case. But if they're from Maryland and rooting for Florida State, I'll bet they change if we stay close. Every team has a weakness. If we can find that weakness in Florida State, exploit it and keep the game close, you never know what will happen."

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