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Smells Like Terps Spirit

So Maryland WR Isaiah Williams was asked (not by me) whether the Terps were reaching celebrity status on campus after four straight wins.

"I would say that, I would say it's probably rock star status right now," Williams said.

Then he was asked (not by me) which rock star he would be.

"Maybe Kurt Cobain?" he said, which seemed an odd choice.

But the players, by and large, said that things had changed in recent weeks up here in the land of milk and riots, as a 3-2 team that was booed on its home field turned into a 7-2 team with a very realistic shot of playing in the ACC championship game.

"I'm not saying the girls are prettier on campus, but they are a hell of a lot nicer when you're winning," Williams said. "And they're a lot more understanding. And they're a lot more outgoing. You know, they are what they are."

[Interruption: Things being "what they are" is so rampant in sports speak now that you figure virtually every usage has already been used, but I think this might qualify as a new one. Player speaking of girls on campus: They are what they are. Love it. Quote continues below.]

"But yeah, campus life's definitely changed a lot. Instead of people going around scowling at us and things like that they're [saying] 'Go Terps,' they're wearing their jerseys around. People have got footballs, they're telling you good luck, singing your praises. But we realize we've got a job to do and we've got to play well every week regardless of what the fans say."

Fellow WR Danny Oquendo agreed.

"In the beginning of the season people were gonna think we were gonna suck and not even win five games, and now everybody's patting us on our back, talking about how good we are and all that," he said. "You just have to be able to not pay attention to them, know who's been behind you the whole time....It seems like the media's switching it around too. [Guilty as charged.] In the beginning of the year, they were bashing us, telling us our defense was terrible, our offense couldn't score. And it seems like they've switched it up a whole lot, too. I mean, it's pretty satisfying to know that you can prove everybody wrong like that."

It has always been thus, apparently. I just ran into Maryland WR coach Bryan Bossard, who spent his formative years at one of this nation's top educational institutions, the University of Delaware. (Hey, if Ivan Carter can blather on about St. Olaf, I can say something nice about UD, right?) Anyhow, this talk all sounded familiar to Bossard.

"I was a college student too; I know how it is," he said. "You have a big win, everybody loves you, everybody's patting you on the back. It's just a whole different deal when you beat Florida State, beat Clemson, beat N.C. State, beat Virginia. The same guys look at you different. It's like you got a face lift or plastic surgery or something."

And so, I wondered, what exactly were things like when Maryland wasn't in first place? What were the comments when the Terps were getting mauled by West Virginia on national TV and struggling to finish off Florida International at home?

"Earlier in the year you heard all kinds of stuff," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "Last year and the year before that, you heard all kinds of crazy stuff too....People were really just trying to figure out what was going on, you know, trying to figure out why we weren't winning the games that we had opportunites to win, wondering about Coach Friedgen and his abilities, just all kinds of crazy stuff. But I don't really pay attention to the good or the bad, so I probably wouldn't be the best guy to talk to about that kind of thing."

Last question: Do players resent such changes of heart among the fickle? Not really, they said. They sort of expect it. They're fans, too.

"I mean, I've been a fan of football," Williams said. "I'm actually the biggest Oakland Raiders football fan ever, and they're hurting right now, you know, and I'm hurting. I took a bad one last night....That's what happens when you have fans: they want to see you do good, and if you're not doing good, it's bad. I don't think [fans] go out of their way to be malicious; I just think they get frustrated, just like players get frustrated, just like coaches get frustrated. They just want to see the best for their team."

I'll let QB Sam Hollenbach finish this puppy off. Sam saluted Maryland fans for their passion, and said he can sense a slow crescendo of interest around campus.

"If we do what we're supposed to do," he said, "we'll probably have some riots around here."

(Not that he, or I, or the University of Maryland, would ever condone such a thing. Quite the opposite.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 7, 2006; 3:06 PM ET
Categories:  Terps  
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