Terps' Hollenbach: picked off and picked on


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Before he even left Kenan Stadium on Saturday, Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach said he knew today's film session wouldn't be an entirely pleasant experience.

Hollenbach's two long fourth-quarter passes helped the Terps overcome a 10-point deficit and beat North Carolina, 33-30, in overtime, but coach Ralph Friedgen had a difficult time yesterday looking past two costly interceptions.

"We've got to stop throwing interceptions, and where we're throwing the interceptions is not good," Friedgen said. "We've got to get that corrected."

This season, Hollenbach has thrown 11 touchdown passes and as many interceptions, but three of those turnovers came after he injured his left shoulder Oct. 20 against Virginia Tech. Though Hollenbach misread the secondary a few times against North Carolina and made mental mistakes, there has also been a noticeable difference in his performance since he was injured, Friedgen said.

"He's not as sharp as he was," Friedgen said. "I thought before, especially before the Virginia Tech game, I thought we were very sharp in our execution and making those decisions. I'm sure he's still a little banged up. We've just got to get him back in form where he's making those right decisions."

The injury occurred when Hollenbach took off for a 22-yard run out of the option and was tackled by a Hokies linebacker from behind. Hollenbach tore a joint in his left shoulder, which has displaced his collarbone. He continues to wear modified shoulder pads, receive medication and undergo physical therapy.

Saturday's game didn't help, as Hollenbach was sacked three times, including once for a loss of 9 yards on a third-and-eight. Still, he averaged 19.7 yards per completion.

"Man, the shots that he would take ... he's just a tough dude," said senior receiver Jo Jo Walker, who caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from Hollenbach in the fourth quarter. "He's our leader. He knew he had to get back up to beat this team, and we fed off of him. It was unbelievable."

In the second quarter against North Carolina, an interception on third down landed the Tar Heels on Maryland's 6-yard line. Tailback Ronnie McGill scored immediately on a 6-yard run. In the fourth quarter, free safety Kareen Taylor returned Hollenbach's second interception 25 yards for a touchdown and a 27-17 lead.

Still, Hollenbach has completed 63 percent of his passes, averages 236 yards of total offense per game and is ranked 28th in the country and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing efficiency (142.77).

"From a statistics standpoint, I think Sam's [completion] percentage is good and yards per catch, but the ratio between touchdowns and interceptions is not good," Friedgen said. "If you could get that in the right order, he would be ranked very high statistically in the country."

It's a problem Maryland's quarterbacks have struggled with since last season. Hollenbach and his predecessor, backup Joel Statham, have combined for 27 interceptions and 13 touchdowns since last year.

The difference between this year and the team under Statham, Friedgen said, is partly that Hollenbach has a stronger supporting cast. Tailback Lance Ball has helped the Terps establish a running game, and the receiving corps has shown marked improvement.

The team has also rallied around Hollenbach and stuck with him through his struggles.

"Sam is a kid who always has his head in there. He's confident," Ball said.

"He definitely gets better from his mistakes as the game goes on."

Senior receiver Danny Melendez, Hollenbach's roommate and close friend, agreed.

"He's very cool and calm," said Melendez, whose 80-yard touchdown reception put Maryland ahead 30-27 in the fourth quarter. "He addressed us there was a lot of football to play and continue to fight and execute."

Hollenbach said he feeds off his teammates' support.

"That helps, especially as a quarterback when you throw a pick for a touchdown, you're going right back out on the field," Hollenbach said. "To have that kind of confidence, and then to get the chance to throw some balls downfield was good, too, I wanted to be able to do that and get the team back in the game."

Note -- Friedgen said corner Josh Wilson, who was diagnosed with a concussion Saturday, is "better than anticipated," and might play Saturday against Boston College. Safety Isaiah Gardner has had some groin pulls, though, and is likely to be held out of practices for a few days.heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Boston College @Maryland Saturday, noon, Ch. 13, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: Boston College by 2

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