Hollenbach, UM fumble one away, 31-19

QB's late turnover ends Terps' comeback hopes as W. Virginia stays unbeaten

College Football

September 18, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - As the clock expired along with any more chances at a comeback, the cliches of encouragement coming from Maryland offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe on the other end of the sideline phone rang hollow in quarterback Sam Hollenbach's ear. Instead, he heard the jeers of rowdy West Virginia fans in the front row behind him.

"Nice fumble, Sam!" one of them yelled.

After his team's 31-19 loss to the Mountaineers yesterday, the leader of the Terps' offense shouldered much of the blame. Hollenbach finished with four fumbles, but the only one he lost came in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. It halted a sudden swing in momentum and ruined one of Maryland's final attempts at a come-from-behind win.

The Terps' troubles, though, began much earlier.

Even during pre-game warm-ups, they were sluggish, jumped offside, missed assignments and blocked the wrong people. For the second straight game, Maryland was unable to generate anything that resembled a running game, and finished with 50 yards on the ground. And the defense, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said, was the worst he's seen since he took the job before the 2001 season.

"I don't know if it's a maturity thing or what," Friedgen said. "I tried to tell them all week what kind of game this was going to be. ... We've had three tough games. Next week will probably be the same way. If we don't get better, it probably will be the same way."

It was Maryland's second straight loss this season and at Byrd Stadium, dropping the Terps to 1-2 overall. The announced attendance of 52,413 was the seventh largest in the program's history.

Over the past two games, Maryland has totaled 106 yards rushing. Left tackle Derek Miller said that is "embarrassing."

"This year, we haven't been able to run the ball at all," he said. "These past two games combined, we might have totaled 100 yards. If you can't run the ball, you're not going to win football games."

It didn't help matters that Maryland was successful on only two of 13 third-down conversion attempts.

Mario Merrills, who in the season opener against Navy looked as if he would be the player to lead Maryland's running game, had his second performance of less than 36 yards.

"We're not running the ball," Friedgen said. "We work very hard at trying to do that. I knew this was going to be a very tough team to run it against because they overload against the run in every situation, every formation. That's why they're one of the very best, if not the best defenses in the country statistically."

West Virginia (3-0) had eight different ball carriers, including Owen Schmitt, who led the Mountaineers with 80 yards and one touchdown on six carries. His 34-yard run in the fourth quarter landed West Virginia on Maryland's 2-yard line and led to the touchdown that put the Mountaineers ahead 21-6.

It took nearly 50 minutes before Maryland was able to score its first touchdown, as kicker Dan Ennis, a walk-on who is now 6-for-6 this season, scored the Terps' only points with his two field goals in the first half.

When Maryland finally made its move, though, it momentarily changed the face of the game.

Trailing 21-6 with 10:41 left in the game, Hollenbach completed a 7-yard pass to senior receiver Derrick Fenner, who started for the first time since sustaining a concussion against Navy. One play later, Hollenbach threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis. The Terps had moved the ball 80 yards in 19 seconds.

Hollenbach completed 20 of 31 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Davis finished with five receptions for 158 yards and one touchdown. Still, Maryland trailed 21-13 with about 10 minutes remaining. They caught a break when Antonio Lewis fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and it was recovered by Maryland freshman receiver Danny Oquendo. On the next drive, senior receiver Jo Jo Walker caught a 12-yard touchdown pass that put the Terps into position to tie the game with a two-point conversion.

Hollenbach missed Walker in the end zone, though, on the attempt, and West Virginia was able to cushion its lead with a touchdown on the next drive.

The Terps allowed 387 yards of total offense that included three plays of 30 yards or more, each of which contributed to West Virginia touchdown drives.

"This is a hard one to eat," Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson said. "Frustration isn't even the term I'd use for this right now. This is more of a hurt."

Friedgen said things could get worse before they get better, but he pointed out he has been in this position before. In 2003, Maryland started the season 0-2 before winning 10 of the next 11.

"We have to make our mind up where football is in our lives," he said. "Is it a priority to us? Is it something we want to be good at? We're going to have to put more effort, more enthusiasm and more heart into it.

"If you think I'm sitting here thinking about losing more games, you're crazy," he said. "I don't think that way."

West Virginia 0 7 0 24-31

Maryland 0 3 3 13-19

Second quarter

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