Since Friedgen's message, the Terrapins have reeled off eight wins, including a 30-12 victory at Clemson last Saturday. Maryland (9-2, 5-1 in the ACC), which last season won the ACC title for the first time in 16 years, now sits one game behind Florida State in the conference.
During its winning streak, Maryland has relied on strong special teams (punter Brooks Barnard leads the ACC with a 42.9-yard average, and Steve Suter has returned four punts for touchdowns) and a stifling defense. (The Terps have allowed 14.8 points a game, sixth in the nation.) But the biggest surprise has been the offense, which has averaged 40.3 points in the eight victories. That number is all the more remarkable given that for most of the season Maryland has been without last year's ACC offensive player of the year, running back Bruce Perry, who missed the first seven games with a torn groin muscle and a strained shoulder. The offense has jelled under McBrien and fifth-year senior tailback Chris Downs, who has rushed for 995 yards and 13 touchdowns.
After Maryland lost to Notre Dame on Aug. 31, "we cut back our offensive package and tried to simplify things," says Terrapins offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe. The offense may be more conservative, but it still keeps defenses guessing, thanks to Friedgen's creative playbook. "It's hard to say I've fully grasped [the offense]," says McBrien. "It's an NFL offense, very tough to run, but the improvement has been building."
What Friedgen has done this fall is no less remarkable than what he accomplished last year, when he led Maryland to a 10-2 record and was voted national coach of the year in his first season in College Park. "Last year you said, 'Is this going to be a one-year wonder?' " says Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "You see that a lot—a guy has a great year, and the next year he fades out. This year kind of proved to me that [ Friedgen] is for real."
Rocky Week for Arizona
Coach Mackovic Is a Wounded Cat
It was a modest show of support, but after the week he'd endured, Arizona coach John Mackovic would take it. Last Saturday, minutes after the Wildcats beat Cal 52-41 for their first Pac-10 win of the season, two Arizona freshmen hoisted their beleaguered coach onto their shoulders. Mackovic broke into a wide smile.
Just three days earlier he had held back tears at a press conference to discuss a meeting the night before between 41 players and university president Peter Likins. Some of the players complained about Mackovic's verbally abusive style, among other things. "It was a feeling that was echoed throughout the team," says senior linebacker Lance Briggs. Though Mackovic wasn't fired or asked to resign, he apologized for having berated his players. For example, on Nov. 9 after a loss to UCLA, he told senior tight end Justin Levasseur, "You're a disgrace to your family."
Before his surprise hiring in December 2000, Mackovic hadn't coached since Texas fired him after a 4-7 season in 1997, capping a rocky 41-28-2 six-year tenure. After leaving Austin, Mackovic spent the next three years as an analyst at ESPN. Since his arrival at Arizona, the Wildcats (4-7, 1-6 in the Pac-10 this season) have gone 3-12 in conference play. If nothing else, Saturday's offensive outburst, in which senior quarterback Jason Johnson passed for 489 yards and four touchdowns, suggested that Arizona (with 17 returning starters) had no business being ninth in the Pac-10 and 116th in the nation in scoring offense.
Mackovic, 59, may survive the season, but last week's damage could be irreversible. "I don't know if he can change, but I hope he can," says Levasseur. "I've got one year left. I'm a Wildcat, and I love to play football."