BLACKSBURG, Va. - It's no secret that it has a been difficult season this year for Maryland's football team and for Terps fourth-year coach Ralph Friedgen.
The Terps have struggled with inexperience, struggled with injuries and struggled with their own self-confidence.
But even with all that in mind, even with the coach begging for patience from fans for much of the season, it was still hard to imagine things ever getting as ugly as they did last night at Lane Stadium.
No. 15 Virginia Tech didn't just beat Maryland, 55-6, - ending the Terps' bowl hopes in front of 65,115 fans. In many ways, the Hokies demoralized the Terps, pushing them around and bullying them for three quarters before finally calling off the dogs.
Maryland (4-6, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions by quarterback Joel Statham, and went into the locker room trailing 41-3 at halftime.
"I knew we were going to struggle this year, but I was hoping we would be able to get to a bowl," Friedgen said. "I don't know if frustrated is the right word. Disappointed, maybe. I've got to start looking at myself and what I'm doing. Obviously, I'm not reaching these kids."
The 49-point margin of defeat was the worst loss of Friedgen's head coaching career, and the worst loss for Maryland since falling to Florida State, 59-7, in 2000.
"I can tell you what, I'm not very good at this," Friedgen said. "You won't see me around here a whole lot if we start doing this a whole lot. They won't have to fire me. I'll quit."
Friedgen was so upset at the way the Terps were playing that he cursed on live television during a halftime interview with an ESPN reporter. The network apologized for Friedgen's language, and Friedgen apologized after the game.
"I really wasn't aware that I did that," Friedgen said. "I was distraught after the first half. That's not an excuse. That's not acceptable, and I apologize. I really don't even remember doing it."
It was an emotional game for both coaches, who have been close friends for years. Hokies coach Frank Beamer found out early yesterday morning that his mother, Herma, died in her sleep at age 86, but at his mother's request, Beamer decided to stay with his team. The Virginia Tech players put stickers with the letter "H" on their helmets for the game, and told Beamer they were giving his mother a game ball from the victory.
"It's not easy to face these things, and you don't want to," Beamer said. "When I left, she told my brothers and sisters, if anything happened to her, that I should coach. ... That kind of tells you about my mom. She wanted me right here and to make sure we won. She's a tough lady, a good lady."
Things couldn't have gone any worse for Maryland in the first quarter, or any better for Virginia Tech (8-2, 5-1), as the Terps fell behind 14-0 just four minutes into the game.
On the Terps' first possession, Statham threw three passes: The first two were nearly intercepted, and the third went right into the arms of the Hokies' James Griffin, who returned the ball to the Maryland 29.
Virginia Tech gave Mike Imoh the ball five straight times, starting with a 21-yard run and ending with a 1-yard leap into the end zone on fourth down that gave the Hokies a 7-0 lead.
"I know from the start, we jumped on them pretty good," said Hokies quarterback Bryan Randall. "They were kind of on their heels. We got the momentum and stayed with it the whole game."
Just 54 seconds after Imoh's touchdown, it was 14-0 thanks to another Maryland turnover. Statham completed a short pass to Derrick Fenner at the 17-yard line, but as the wide receiver tried to make a move, he was stripped by Hokies linebacker James Anderson. Mikal Baaqee recovered, and Imoh later scored on a 6-yard run.
Imoh left the game at that point with a pulled left hamstring, but it hardly mattered. After a Maryland field goal, Randall watched tight end Jeff King get behind Maryland's defense, and the quarterback hit him for a 35-yard touchdown to make it 21-3.
Statham's nightmarish first half continued on the next drive with another interception, this one by Xavier Adibi, and running back Justin Hamilton made it 28-3 with a 5-yard run.
Friedgen had seen enough of Statham at that point, replacing him with Jordan Steffy, who was just 3-for-6 for 18 yards. Just before halftime, Steffy was intercepted by Anderson, and then was knocked out of the game when he tried to make a tackle on the interception return. Steffy was taken to a local hospital with what appeared to be a concussion, but Maryland didn't release any information.
It capped a forgettable night for the Terps, who will finish the season with a losing record for the first time since 2000 regardless of what happens next week against Wake Forest.
"We turned the ball over way too many times, and you can't do that against a good Virginia Tech team," Friedgen said.
Next for Maryland
Matchup: Wake Forest (4-5, 1-5) vs. Maryland (4-6, 2-5)
Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park
When: Nov. 27, noon
TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)
Tomorrow: Wake Forest plays at Miami