COLLEGE PARK - They lie like sand traps on Maryland's schedule, ready to swallow up the team's momentum as if it were a wayward golf ball.
The Middle Tennessee game on Sept. 6 was clearly such a trap - a loss to a less-than-formidable opponent that Terps players seemed not to have taken seriously enough.
Are other such hazards lurking for a team that righted its young season Saturday with a 35-27 upset of California?
"We're not going to fall in that trap again," defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre insisted after Maryland beat No. 23 California in a game in which the Terps rolled to a 28-6 lead before tiring in the 83-degree heat and the humidity. The Terps won after recovering an onside kick and running out the final 1:55.
The Terps have a penchant for rising to the occasion in big games but looking uninspired against weaker opponents.
"For whatever reason, we've had that here a little bit," said offensive coordinator James Franklin, sounding as if he were talking about a contagious illness. "Against Eastern Michigan [on Saturday], it's going to be critical that we show some maturity."
Maryland might be without running back Da'Rel Scott, who entered the Cal game averaging 160 yards and got 87 on 19 carries before leaving with a shoulder injury. Scott has a sprain in his shoulder and will probably be listed as questionable for Eastern Michigan, coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday. Scott is expected to participate in noncontact drills during practices.
Meanwhile, wide receiver LaQuan Williams will undergo X-rays for a foot injury and cornerback Richard Taylor will have a magnetic resonance imaging to determine the severity of a knee injury. If Taylor needs surgery, he would be out for the season, Friedgen said.
Maryland might also need a replacement at kicker - but not because of injury.
Senior Obi Egekeze, who entered the season having made 17 of 23 field goals, has gone into a mysterious funk since hitting the crossbar on his first attempt of the season from 48 yards against Delaware. He has missed his next four attempts, including a 27-yarder on Saturday.
"We've got to get better in that [kicking] area one way or another," said Friedgen, who indicated that sophomore transfer Nick Wallace and freshman Mike Barbour could vie for the job.
Eastern Michigan, from the Mid-American Conference, has lost its past two games - to Michigan State and Toledo - by a combined score of 83-27 and does not seem to be a threat.
Maryland began this season with a 14-7 win over a Delaware team from the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA.
"I'm continuing to preach to them that they've got to get better regardless of who we're playing," Friedgen said. "Hopefully they'll take stock in that and try to get better. You've got to show up to play. I don't know how much more I can say about it."
Maryland had no problem getting motivated for Cal, which arrived with a running game ranked sixth in the nation at 297 yards per game.
The Terps held the Golden Bears to 38 rushing yards.
Friedgen said the key stop came after Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith fumbled while seeking extra yardage with the Terps ahead 21-6 in the second quarter. The miscue returned the ball to Cal at its 32-yard line.
"The momentum could have changed very easily right there," Friedgen said.
But linebacker Dave Philistin, who had 13 tackles, stopped running back Jahvid Best for a 3-yard loss, and Cal was unable to make a first down.
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Radio: 1300 AM
Line: Maryland by 21 1/2
Moise Fokou sacking quarterback Kevin Riley on California's first series. Maryland's first sack of the season set the tone for the defense in a first half in which the Terps took a 21-6 lead. "It was like, 'All right, now we can just play,' " defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre said of the reaction to the sack.
Josh Portis firing a pass over the head of receiver Isaiah Williams. It was ruled a fumble, but the Terps recovered. "When Portis comes on the field, there are two people that are nervous - me and the [other team's] defensive coordinator," Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin said.
The Terps (2-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) face Eastern Michigan (1-2, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Byrd Stadium.