Mistakes added up in Terps' loss, but it's how they react that counts

College Football

September 12, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - After a career performance that on most days would have puffed up his chest a bit, Maryland wide receiver Danny Melendez instead found himself feeling like he had "the wind knocked out" of him.

"Worse than that," he added, slumped in a chair after the Terps' 28-24 loss to Clemson on Saturday. "It's going to stick with me for the rest of my life."

On the heels of last year's 5-6 season that included a loss to Clemson, Saturday's loss was an all-too-familiar punch in the gut for a team that has three Atlantic Coast Conference wins in its past nine tries.

The question now is how the Terps will respond to it.

"I'm tired of feeling like this," said linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, a senior whose emotions cost the Terps a 15-yard penalty in the third quarter. "We told ourselves we weren't going to do that like last year. All we had to do was come up with a stop defensively and the game was pretty much over.

"We couldn't do it. Luckily, it's early in the season, and we have a lot of time to get better."

Actually, they have a week before West Virginia, a team that beat Maryland last fall in overtime, 19-16, comes to Byrd Stadium.

This year's game against Clemson wasn't like last year, when a controversial third-down pass-interference call on the game's final drive led to the Tigers' game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds remaining.

This time, in the teams' first conference game of the season, eight penalties cost the Terps 98 yards and contributed to two Clemson scoring drives. The mistakes and mental mishaps overshadowed a 288-yard passing performance by quarterback Sam Hollenbach and Vernon Davis' 140 yards and one touchdown on six receptions. Melendez finished with 74 yards on five receptions, including a catch for 41 yards.

It was all for naught, though, as the defense couldn't stop Clemson on third-and-10 in the fourth quarter, when the Tigers completed a 51-yard touchdown pass to cut Maryland's lead to 24-21. Clemson had 72 yards rushing in the fourth quarter alone.

"They're my teammates," Melendez said. "We sweat and work together every single day. I have 100 percent faith in our defense, no question. I see us unified as a team. We just have to learn how to hold on and to finish teams off."

Hollenbach said he is prepared to see "a lot of mistakes on that film" when the team watches it today. For starters, Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said he had to use two timeouts because players were unsure of the substitutions. Clemson scored after Hollenbach's only interception of the game gave the Tigers possession. He also fumbled the ball on the Clemson 6-yard line.

"I think it will hurt our kids when they see it, but it's all correctable," Friedgen said yesterday after watching game film. "I'm anxious to get things corrected and put this one behind us."

Friedgen said he is not disappointed with the players, and he expects them to be "more determined than ever" when they watch the game film today.

"I have a young football team who is playing as hard as they can for me," he said. "I don't want them to get down. ... We let one get away. When I say `we,' I mean everybody - coaches, players, support staff, everybody.

"It's just one of those things that happened. I don't feel good about it, but we have a lot of season left to play, and I have a lot of great kids. I'm not worried about them coming back."

NOTE: Stephen Smalls, a wide receiver from Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa., said yesterday that he has orally committed to play for Maryland. Smalls said he was at Maryland's game Saturday and informed wide receivers coach Bryan Bossard of his decision. He has graduated already and will join the team in January. According to Rivals.com, Emani Lee, a senior wide receiver at Anacostia High School in Washington also orally committed.

Next for Maryland

Matchup: West Virginia (2-0) at Maryland (1-1)

When: Saturday, noon

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/1300 AM

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