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Terps just want to have fun

College Park — College Park -- Traditionally, the Maryland football team ended its practice warm-ups with "Terp jacks," jumping jacks the players did while barking out T-E-R-P-S!

Recently, that changed.

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Now the players huddle, forming somewhat of a mosh pit around coach Ralph Friedgen, and "kind of go nuts at the end," he said.

"It got to be crazy," Friedgen said of Monday's practice. "I had to get the heck out of there."

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It's a rowdy change of which he approves, he said, because they're having fun - something that, along with wins, has been hard to come by the past two 5-6 seasons. This year, the team is in an entirely different position heading into tonight's game at 7 against Florida State (4-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) at Byrd Stadium. With five games remaining on the schedule, Maryland (5-2, 2-1) needs just one more win to become bowl-eligible.

"To me, the way I look at it, we've got nothing to lose," Friedgen said. "Let's go out there, play like hell, have a good time and enjoy the moment. I don't think we should go out there and put all this pressure on us. None of you thought we'd be playing this game at 5-2."

Likewise, few probably imagined the once-mighty Seminoles would be in the midst of their worst conference start since joining the ACC in 1992.

It's possible this could be the best time for Maryland to take on Florida State. Boosters are calling for the retirement of legendary coach Bobby Bowden, who is on the brink of turning 77, and the unranked defending conference champions have lost two of their past three games.

For the same reasons, it could be the worst time for the Terps to have the Seminoles on the schedule.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," fullback Tim Cesa said. "They're coming up here with their backs against the wall and we're getting into the toughest part of our schedule. This is definitely a game we need to win. It's kind of an urgent game. Florida State is kind of down right now, they're not having their best year, but who knows what they're going to bring up here to play us."

For starters, they're going to bring the top passing offense in the ACC.

Unlike the elderly Bowden, Friedgen is somewhat tech-savvy (he has Santana, Billy Joel and even some Jimi Hendrix on his iPod). On the computer in his office, Friedgen can pull up more than 300 of Florida State's plays within a matter of seconds. He said he wouldn't be surprised if 25 long gains popped up. Under the direction of sophomore quarterback Drew Weatherford, the Seminoles average 246 passing yards per game.

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Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach, on the other hand, threw just nine passes in the Terps' win last weekend against North Carolina State. It's not for lack of confidence in Hollenbach, Friedgen said; it's for lack of depth at wide receiver. He knows Maryland will have to throw more because Florida State has the No. 2 rushing defense in the conference.

"I would love nothing more than to be able to make big plays in the throwing game," Friedgen said. "That would make my life a lot easier."

So would a win today.

It's the kind of game that could turn Maryland's season one way or the other. If the Terps pull off the win - which they did here two years ago - it's conceivable that the psychological boost of winning three straight could propel them to further success.

On the flip side, a loss could be the start of a downward spiral because the toughest teams in the conference remain on the schedule. Maryland will travel to Clemson next weekend, return home to face Miami, travel to Boston College and finish at home against Wake Forest.

"This is big," said Hollenbach, who has completed an unprecedented 70 percent of his passes the past week at practices. "We haven't done anything special yet. We're 5-2. We've won five games [each of] the past two years. It's nothing to be real excited about. If we get this one, we have a chance to go to a bowl. I think that will be kind of a relief for us. We'll get it over with. Our goals aren't to get to six and then we're all right, we can coast through. That's not the point of our season."

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Friedgen agreed.

"I think it's a milestone for us," he said of the sixth win. "To me, I'm looking for bigger and better things. I know it's going to be hard, it's not going to be an easy row to hoe with the people we're playing.

"The more we win, the more each game will become important," Friedgen said, "and probably conversely."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Tonight's game

Matchup -- Florida State (4-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) @Maryland (5-2, 2-1)

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Time -- 7 p.m.

TV/Radio -- ESPN2/105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Line -- Florida State by 4

Series -- Florida State leads 15-1

Last meeting -- Florida State won, 35-27, on Oct. 29, 2005, in Tallahassee

Maryland offense vs. Florida State defense -- Maryland ran the ball 41 times against North Carolina State last week and threw it just nine - a lopsided game plan that needs to change against the Seminoles. Florida State is limiting opponents to 78.9 rushing yards per game. The Terps will also have to improve their third-down conversion percentage (.353) and red-zone offense (15 touchdowns in 29 trips inside the 20-yard line). Senior LB Buster Davis leads Florida State with 63 tackles, including four for losses and two sacks. Junior S Roger Williams had eight tackles against the Terps a year ago.

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Maryland defense vs. Florida State offense -- The Terps' defense played well against N.C. State, forcing three turnovers that led to 17 points. This will be a test for the secondary, as Florida State QB Drew Weatherford needs 271 passing yards to reach the 5,000-yard mark. He is averaging 217.3, but leading receiver De'Cody Fagg will not play because of a high ankle sprain. Maryland CB Josh Wilson had his first two sacks of the season last weekend, and the Terps' pass rush has improved, with Rick Costa and David Holloway coming off the edges.

Heather A. Dinich


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