Terps' fortunes hinge on final 3-game swing

October 31, 2005|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

It was just after midnight when the Maryland football team finally returned to College Park after its crushing 35-27 loss to No. 10 Florida State on Saturday. Coach Ralph Friedgen volunteered to drive a couple of his players home, and instead of talking about the loss, they asked him what bowl games the team could still sneak into.

Friedgen told them they could win their last three games and finish 7-4, with a chance to "go to a good bowl" and win eight games.

"We could be 4-7," too, he said.

The Terps have 13 days to determine which team they'll be before facing North Carolina on the road Nov. 12. While all dreams of an appearance in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game dissipated Saturday with the Terps' halftime lead, Maryland still has three chances to earn the two wins needed to become bowl-eligible.

"This next game is a very big game for us, obviously," Friedgen said. "I do see us getting better as a team. What I said last night to the players and the media was I think we're a better team than 4-4, but we gotta go out and prove it. ... I'd be very disappointed if we didn't play very hard the last three games."

Playing hard hasn't been the problem, Friedgen said. Failing to play smart has been.

Maryland made two costly pass interference penalties that led to the Seminoles' 28-27 lead in the fourth quarter, and for the second consecutive game, the Terps were unable to convert turnovers into touchdowns.

Virginia Tech and Florida State combined for six turnovers, but Maryland converted those into just three field goals.

Florida State threw an interception on its first possession of the third quarter, giving the Terps the ball at the Seminoles' 30-yard line. On second-and-four from the 24, running back Lance Ball was held to 1 yard. Friedgen said a player missed a block. Maryland couldn't get a first down and settled for a 40-yard field goal by Dan Ennis.

"To me you gotta cash in on those situations," Friedgen said. "When [Florida State] got the turnover, they made sure they got the touchdown."

The Terps also struggled to convert their chances Oct. 20 in a loss to Virginia Tech. Hokies quarterback Marcus Vick threw interceptions on three consecutive drives, but the Terps turned those possessions into two missed field goals and a punt.

Senior linebacker William Kershaw said the pressure is increasing to win and avoid a repeat of last year's 5-6 season.

"We had a nasty taste in our mouth last year because we didn't go to a bowl game," he said. "We got a chance right now to make up for last year. The season is winding down, but, hey, we still have a couple more games to play."

Boston College, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech have already qualified for bowl games.

"The way the ACC is, it could have trouble getting more than six teams to be qualified for bowls," Friedgen said. "Whoever is going to finish the strongest is going to get the chance to go to a bowl game. Right now, what we have to do is worry about the next game. If we don't win the next game, our backs will really be against the wall."

Injury updates

Junior quarterback Sam Hollenbach will have an X-ray to make sure he didn't chip his spine or any of his vertebrae Saturday, Friedgen said, adding that the medical staff thinks it's probably a muscular injury.

"We're hoping he'll be ready to go on Thursday and be ready to throw," Friedgen said. "He needs time and work as much as anybody because he's been out so long."

Backup quarterback Joel Statham is also experiencing back pain. Friedgen said he was hit on the last play of the game.

Senior safety Milton Harris, who lost consciousness for about 25 seconds in the third quarter Saturday, will be held out for most of this week. He is expected to return for the North Carolina game.

Senior receiver Derrick Fenner has a thigh bruise, and the staff will "limit him for a while," Friedgen said.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Maryland@North Carolina Nov. 12, TBA, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

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