Devils take on red-hot Terrapins|Maryland seeks to double its win total from last year

Published 7:57 pm Friday, October 1, 2010

By By DAVID GINSBURG, AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It’s all there for Maryland: A chance to double its win total of last year, open Atlantic Coast Conference play with a victory and then savor everything during a bye week.
The only thing the Terrapins must do is defeat Duke on Saturday night.
‘‘To be 4-1 going into the break, we’d have some momentum,’’ Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. ‘‘Hopefully we can get healed up a little bit going into the last half of the season. I think going in there 4-1, we’d be feeling good.’’
Maryland completed the non-conference portion of its schedule by beating Florida International 42-28 last week. The only flaw in September was a loss at West Virginia, but the Terrapins are far better off than a year ago, when they finished 2-10 and in the Atlantic Division cellar.
‘‘In the long run,’’ defensive lineman A.J. Francis said, ‘‘3-1 is a good place to be.’’
It sure beats where Duke is: 1-3 and coming off a 35-21 loss at home to Army. The Blue Devils committed five turnovers against the Cadets and need two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the final score respectable.
The game was not unlike Duke’s lone foray into the ACC thus far, an ugly 54-48 defeat at Wake Forest in which the Blue Devils gave up 500 yards and committed four turnovers.
Cutcliffe blames Duke’s poor start surrendering too many big plays on defense and committing too many turnovers on offense.
‘‘If we minimize both of those, playing not much different than we play, we would have the chance to have a different record,’’ he said.
This would be an ideal week to test that theory, because Duke’s weaknesses are Maryland’s strengths. The Terps scored on four plays of at least 50 yards against FIU and have 27 plays of at least 20 yards this season.
Maryland has forced an ACC-high 10 turnovers and boasts a plus-6 differential.
‘‘We were working on holding onto the football since February,’’ Friedgen said. ‘‘It’s the first thing we do every day. There’s an amazing correlation between turnover ratio and winning football games.’’
No one has to tell Duke. Sophomore Sean Renfree threw for 261 yards against Army, but his three interceptions were too much to overcome. Overall, his nine touchdown passes have been offset by seven interceptions.
Either the Blue Devils get that corrected, or their season is done.
‘‘Coach Cut brought us all together and told us it’s our decision to make. We can go out and take it game by game and win the rest of them, or we can lay down and go 1-11,’’ receiver Conner Vernon said. ‘‘And we’re definitely not going to do that.’’
Cutcliffe said, ‘‘We will not give in to this. We have weapons. We have people that can make plays.’’
So do the Terrapins. Wide receiver Torrey Smith has touchdown catches of 60, 80 and 68 yards in his last two games, and punt returner Tony Logan took one back 85 yards for a score last week against FIU.
‘‘We like the big plays,’’ said Davin Meggett, who contributed a 76-yard touchdown run against FIU. ‘‘But you can’t rely on them. We have to be more consistent, get more drives going. Of course, we’ll take any big plays we can.’’
With a win over Duke, the Terrapins will move within two victories of becoming bowl eligible. That would be something to think about during bye week.
‘‘Our schedule is set up for success,’’ Logan said. ‘‘It’s a big game, our first ACC game. It would be a big lift, especially with the guys we have injured, to go get this win.’’
Starting quarterback Jamarr Robinson has a sore shoulder and his backup, freshman Danny O’Brien, is nursing an ankle sprain. Both are expected to play against the Blue Devils.
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Durhamn, N.C., contributed to this report.