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Mixed bag of incentives

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK - From helmet decals to inspirational speakers, Ralph Friedgen seems to possess an endless supply of tools to try to entice the best out of his Maryland football players.

"I'm always trying to figure out ways to motivate these guys to do well," the coach said.

This season - in which the Terrapins have been notoriously inconsistent - the coach has needed every last trick, prod and incentive.

The Terps (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) shouldn't require much prompting today when they host No. 21 Wake Forest (4-1, 2-0). The game represents a chance for Maryland, coming off a bye week, to rebound from a humiliating loss to Virginia by beating a top conference foe.

But with this Maryland team, one never knows. Friedgen, whose sister is a psychologist, has often seemed as puzzled as anyone else why his team - upset by Middle Tennessee State in Week 2 - can come out flatter than a flat-screen television on game day.

"We'd better react," defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said of today's game. "We're home, and we're going to defend our turf and bounce back and play with a passion."

To help the Terps along, Friedgen has been employing a series of inducements. Some are time-tested, and others are new this season. Here is a sampling:

* * Helmet decals: Maryland coaches award a gold decal if all of the player's academic requirements for the week have been fulfilled. A red decal is given for a football-related achievement.

* Flags on the field: Friedgen likes to reward players by designating them to carry the Maryland or U.S. flags onto the field before games. Today's pick to hoist the Maryland flag is Arnold Davies, a senior walk-on from Silver Spring who is academically ineligible. Davies, a transfer from Delaware State, hasn't played in a game in his Terps career. But Friedgen said he wanted to salute him for his work in practice.

* Rallying cries: The Terps often yell, "Get better!" when they break their team huddles at practice. After practice, they might yell, "Family!" Before today's game, they're likely to yell, "Beat Wake!"

On hold for now is the cry of "ACC champs!" The Terps decided recently that they needed to shelve that one at least until they got closer to their goal.

* Motivational speakers: The team has heard from several, including Lonise Bias, who endured the cocaine-induced death of her son, Len, the Maryland basketball All-American, in 1986.

* Music at practices: Friedgen said he would like to hear more Frank Sinatra. But he said it uplifts his players to hear songs by U2, Foo Fighters, Zombie Nation and others.

* Black jerseys: The Terps will periodically break them out before a game. One memorable such occasion was the homecoming victory over Virginia in 2005.

"We had the red jersey with the white pants," equipment manager Ron Ohringer said. "But when [the players] were outside for warm-ups, we pulled out the black jerseys and put them out by their lockers. And as they were coming in from warm-ups, it was kind of like we had just won the Super Bowl. They were just going nuts."

* Points system: Friedgen doles out points in spring practice for such infractions as missing class. Violators can find themselves running the Byrd Stadium stairs at sunrise.

Ideally, Friedgen said, all his incentives wouldn't be necessary.

"Somewhere along the line, they've got to motivate themselves," he said.



Today, noon

TV: Ch. 13

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Line: Wake Forest by 2

terps today

Matchup: No. 21 Wake Forest (4-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) at Maryland (4-2, 1-1)

Time: Noon

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

TV: Ch. 13

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Line: Wake Forest by 2

Series: Maryland leads 40-15-1.

Last meeting: Wake won, 31-24, in overtime on Sept. 22, 2007, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Maryland offense vs. Wake Forest defense: The Terrapins will need to run against a rugged Wake team that leads the nation in passing-efficiency defense. Wake's defense lives for third-and-long, holding Clemson last week to 2-for-14 on third-down conversions. Solid Maryland running would take the pressure off QB Chris Turner.

Maryland defense vs. Wake Forest offense: Wake QB Riley Skinner is one of the ACC's best. But the Demon Deacons will be hurt if ace K Sam Swank (quadriceps) can't play. His replacement, Shane Popham, looked shaky against Clemson. Terps coaches have watched footage of Maryland's defense during a strong first half against California on Sept. 13, so they can try to duplicate what went right.

Prediction: Wake Forest 20, Maryland 17

Jeff Barker

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