Maryland comes up on short end against North Carolina State, 13-3

Host Terps fail to gain 100 yards again

bowl chances in jeopardy

October 17, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Ralph Friedgen has always been the kind of coach who speaks from the heart. He doesn't weigh his words carefully, and he doesn't soften his critiques for anyone.

So true to form yesterday, he pulled no punches. After watching Maryland gain just 91 yards in a 13-3 loss to North Carolina State in front of a homecoming crowd of 52,179 at Byrd Stadium, he shook his head and called it like he saw it.

"I'm embarrassed," Friedgen said. "This is embarrassing."

It was a harsh assessment, but after his team failed to gain 100 yards for the second straight game, it was an accurate representation of the way Friedgen felt. Maryland (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), which has three straight seasons of 10 wins or more, is now in serious jeopardy of missing the postseason bowl picture entirely.

"I thought we were ready to play today," Friedgen said. "I worked my butt off trying to get [the team] ready, but it's obvious I'm not reaching them."

A week ago, when Maryland gained just 81 yards in a 20-7 loss to Georgia Tech, Friedgen called his offense "inept" and vowed that the Terps would play better against the Wolfpack, a team they have beaten four straight times. But to his frustration, Maryland's offense looked just as bad yesterday, and may have even been worse than it was against the Yellow Jackets.

How ugly was it? On Maryland's opening possession, the Terps picked up four first downs, driving the ball 51 yards. Nick Novak kicked a 32-yard field goal that appeared to give Maryland an early lead. But the Terps were flagged for an illegal formation, and Novak missed his second attempt from 37 yards. The rest of the game, Maryland got only one first down and went three plays-and-punt 11 times.

"I don't think I've ever had two games [in a row] like that," said Friedgen, who lost consecutive home games for the first time as Maryland's coach and acknowledged that he may be more frustrated right now than at any point during his 36-year coaching career. "I wish I could wave a magic wand and make things start happening, but I can't."

Maryland played both its quarterbacks - sophomore Joel Statham in the first half and freshman Jordan Steffy much of the second - but the two combined for just 24 yards passing. And though neither quarterback played well, there was plenty of blame to go around. The offensive line missed blocks and the Terps receivers failed to get open against N.C. State's man coverage. Their poor play simply proved Friedgen's point from early in the week: Maryland's problems are clearly much bigger right now than who plays quarterback.

"We're just kind of out there running around and going through the motions," Friedgen said. "I didn't see us compete offensively."

"The last two games, we've pretty much beat ourselves," said Statham, who was six of 11 for 18 yards before being taken out in the third quarter. "We're all frustrated right now and don't really know where to turn to right now. Hopefully this coming week we'll be able to find some answers."

Defensively, Maryland had its moments. N.C. State rushed for only 95 yards, and for much of the game, the Terps' defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. Shawne Merriman had 15 tackles, and made a play in the first half that nearly changed the complexion of the game.

Leading 3-0, and facing second-and-six on Maryland's 30-yard line, Wolfpack quarterback Jay Davis dropped back and was dragged down by a blitzing D'Qwell Jackson. Jackson clearly grabbed Davis' face mask on the tackle, and Davis appeared to be throwing the ball on the play, but the whistle never blew, so Merriman scooped up the ball and returned it 60 yards in the other direction for what he thought was a touchdown.

The officials, however, correctly flagged Jackson for a personal foul, and gave N.C. State the ball on the Terps' 15-yard line. Two plays later, Wolfpack fullback Reggie Davis scored the game's only touchdown on a 1-yard run to make it 10-0.

"The calls definitely didn't go our way this week," Friedgen said.

Despite going three-and-out eight straight times, Maryland still had a chance deep into the fourth quarter. Last season, the Terps trailed N.C. State 24-10 entering the final period before rallying for a 26-24 win, and when Wolfpack punt returner Dovonte Edwards muffed a punt with 11:38 left, giving Maryland the ball at the 28-yard line, it looked like things might be headed in that direction once again.

"I was like, `Oh man, here we go again,'" said Davis, who finished 13-for-30 for 208 yards.

But Steffy, who led Maryland to its only touchdown last week, couldn't duplicate the feat against N.C. State. Steffy had receiver Derrick Fenner wide-open in the end zone on third down, but overthrew him under heavy pressure. Maryland had to settle for a 40-yard field goal, and never threatened again. Steffy finished 1-for-7 for 6 yards and was sacked three times.

"Our defense played their hearts out, and for us to only give them three points is depressing," said Maryland center Kyle Schmitt, who played despite missing practice with a concussion. "It feels like every yard out there, we're working like hell to get it."

Friedgen didn't even bother to speculate who will start at quarterback next week against Clemson, on the road, in front of 80,000 fans.

"I don't know," Friedgen said when asked how he planned to restore Maryland's confidence and regroup before Clemson. "Got any suggestions?"

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