COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland starting quarterback Jim Sandwisch, his body hurting and heart heavy, sat in a chair Saturday afternoon in the football building for nearly 30 minutes answering questions about perhaps the worst performance in his career. Maryland had lost again, this time to Duke, and Sandwisch was intercepted four times.
When Sandwisch had finished answering the questions, he walked over to his mother, kissed her, and they walked hand in hand out of the building. Alone. There were no autograph seekers, fans or well-wishers.
"You know what's really tough?" Sandwisch asked yesterday, as the Terps began preparing for Saturday's game against North Carolina. "The week before, everybody was patting me on the back [Sandwisch was the ACC Offensive Back of the Week]. The next week, they're all kicking me in the shins.
"But I have 110 brothers on this team and I'll keep working for them, the people that support me like my friends and family, and myself. We've got four more games to play, and I'm not going to let the little things bother me," said Sandwisch, who was bothered by tendinitis in his throwing elbow for the first three games of the season.
This year has not been great for Sandwisch, who could have been one of college football's best success stories.
This was the anticipated happy ending:
Sandwisch, a 6-foot-3, 206-pound senior, a former walk-on from Great Mills High, finally earns the starting job and leads the Terps to the ACC title, a second consecutive winning season and bowl appearance.
Sandwisch has quarterbacked Maryland to a 2-5 record and the worst-rated offense in the ACC. He is last in the conference in passing efficiency having completed only 106 of 211 passes for 1,066 yards with nine interceptions.
That is about 10 yards per completed pass -- not far off the 11.4 yards per completed pass by Scott Zolak, last year's quarterback. Zolak, now with the New England Patriots, completed 154 of 274 passes for 1,750 yards and 14 interceptions after seven games.
But Zolak had a strong arm, two offensive tackles who were drafted, a clutch wide receiver in Barry Johnson and two healthy running backs, Troy Jackson and Mark Mason. Sandwisch's arm is average at best, his offensive line and receivers are inexperienced and the team's best running back is out for the season.
Sandwisch was booed by part of last Saturday's homecoming crowd at Byrd Stadium after Maryland lost to Duke, 17-13. He doesn't think it was all justified.
"Overall, I'm satisfied with the way I have played, considering all the things that have happened, the injuries to our offense," said Sandwisch. "At times I've tried to force the ball to make things happen, and other times I've gotten positive yardage when I should have gotten sacked. But people like to pick out the negatives, even though they don't know the entire situation. It still comes down to a team game, but I just happen to play a position where when things go bad, a lot of fingers are pointed at me."
Actually, Sandwisch was and is the No. 1 quarterback by both choice and default. He had more experience than the other quarterbacks and played well in spring and summer practices.
The No. 2 quarterback, 5-11 John Kaleo, transferred to Maryland last spring from Montgomery College-Rockville but hasn't been especially impressive and has trouble seeing over the line of scrimmage because of his height. Third-string quarterback Tony Scarpino, a redshirt freshman, has a strong arm but hasn't fully grasped the offense.
That leaves the Terps with two true freshmen in Scott Milanovich and Tom Marchese. Milanovich has shown he is capable of playing now, but coach Joe Krivak doesn't want to play him this season. Marchese is a year away.
"My job is to put the best players we have out there," said Krivak. "Right now, Jim is the best we have and he has given us his best effort. There's nothing more we can ask of him."
Sandwisch's biggest problem is vision, seeing the whole field, and overthrowing receivers on long patterns. Lately, he has also been quick to leave the pocket.
"I don't think people realize that Jim has only played in seven or eight college games," said Terps quarterback coach Jerry Eisaman. "Some of those mistakes can be rectified with playing time, but Jim hasn't had much. He has improved over the year, playing through a sore arm and other adversity. I've seen him take shots that some people couldn't have gotten up from. I've also seen him make plays with someone smacking him in the face. Those things go unnoticed."
Translation: Maryland's offensive line hasn't played well. Because of injuries and a shortage of depth, as well as talent on the offensive line, the Terps have given up 23 sacks and allowed Sandwisch to be hurried countless others, which accounts for some the quick exits from the pockets.