Terps finish empty-handed

UM miscues send it packing without a bowl berth

N.C. State 20 Maryland 14

November 27, 2005|By KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG | KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG,SUN REPORTER

RALEIGH, N.C. -- It's difficult to pin down exactly what has been lacking for Maryland's football team the past two seasons. Is it a drop in quarterback play? A lack of discipline and mental toughness? Have injuries and inexperience stalled the program's early momentum? Ask 20 people, and you're likely to get 20 different answers.

Yesterday's game against North Carolina State, however, provided none. And more than likely, it only raised more questions for the Terps, as they let turnovers, penalties and missed field-goal attempts seal their demise in a 20-14 loss to the Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium.

With a win, Maryland (5-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) would have become bowl-eligible for the fourth time in five years. Instead, N.C. State (6-5, 3-5) is likely headed to the postseason, and the Terps again get to spend the holidays wondering where to go from here.

"You've all heard this story before," said Terps coach Ralph Friedgen, alluding to Maryland's four turnovers and season-high 14 penalties for 93 yards. "If we keep shooting ourselves in the foot, the result is always going to be the same."

Maryland wasn't awful yesterday, it just wasn't good enough, a theme that has played itself out numerous times this season. The Terps actually led 7-3 at halftime, despite two missed field-goal tries by Dan Ennis. But things started to slip away during a disastrous third quarter in which Maryland ran just six plays for a total of negative 6 yards.

N.C. State running back Toney Baker put the Wolfpack up 10-7 with a fourth-down plunge from the 1-yard line.

Turnovers, however, again caused the most damage. For the third straight game, quarterback Sam Hollenbach threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Yesterday's miscue came early in the fourth quarter, when Hollenbach tried to hit his roommate, wide receiver Danny Melendez, near the Wolfpack sideline. N.C. State cornerback Marcus Hudson wrestled the ball away from Melendez, then raced down the sideline 28 yards for a score, giving his team a 17-7 lead.

"I thought I could make a play, but I just couldn't get the ball out to him like I wanted to," said Hollenbach, who went 20-for-35 for 235 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. "There was no reason that should have been intercepted. We had a guy open."

Hollenbach's recent struggles have clearly been testing the patience of his head coach. After the game, Friedgen suggested that the starting job would be up for grabs again this spring.

"We definitely have to get the thing squared away with the quarterback," Friedgen said. "That can't go on. Some changes are going to be made somewhere if we keep throwing interceptions all the time. It just can't happen. It's a weekly occurrence. I bet we've got more interceptions in two years than in the history of football."

In fairness to Hollenbach, Maryland's problems yesterday were compounded by injuries and suspensions. Offensive tackle Brandon Nixon left early in the game after aggravating a stinger in his shoulder, forcing Maryland to go with redshirt freshman Dane Randolph.

Wolfpack defensive end Mario Williams took advantage of the mismatch, setting a school record with four sacks.

And while Friedgen refused to address their absence, senior starters William Kershaw and Derrick Fenner didn't play yesterday, presumably because both were being suspended for their role in an off-campus fight at the Cornerstone Grill and Loft in College Park on Nov. 1. Jeremy Navarre, a starter at defensive end, also didn't play in the first half, and saw limited action in the second.

When asked why the three didn't play, Friedgen said, "I'm not going to get into that. When are you going to learn?"

Maryland did stage a minor rally late in the fourth quarter, when Hollenbach hit tight end Vernon Davis for a 15-yard touchdown with 4:21 left, pulling the Terps within 20-14. But the Terps got the ball back at their 25 with just 39 seconds left, and Hollenbach was intercepted again by Hudson on the first play.

"Until we learn how to not beat ourselves, we're not going to be very good," Friedgen said.

Whatever happens next season, Maryland clearly has some decisions to make. According to team spokesman Greg Creese, defensive coordinator Gary Blackney has decided to retire and won't return in 2006.

Davis, a junior who finished with eight catches for 108 yards, is likely to be a first-round pick in next year's NFL draft if he decides to leave early, and he said after the game he'll weigh his options during the next few weeks.

The Terps also will need to find a replacement for senior linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who wrapped up an All-America career with 13 tackles, including two sacks, as the Terps held the Wolfpack to 186 yards of total offense.

"When I walked off the field, I didn't think I was going to be that emotional," Jackson said. "I choked up a bit. I just looked around and saw guys I came in with, and you realize you'll never get this back, the experience of bleeding, sweating and clowning with the guys. That's one thing I'll definitely miss."

kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

Maryland's 2005 results

Date Opponent Result

9/3 vs. Navy-a W, 23-20

9/10 Clemson L, 28-24

9/17 West Virginia L, 31-19

9/24 @Wake Forest W, 22-12

10/1 Virginia W, 45-33

10/8 @Temple W, 38-7

10/20 Virginia Tech L, 28-9

10/29 @Florida State L, 35-27

11/12 @N. Carolina W, 33-30*

11/19 Boston Col. L, 31-16

11/26 @N.C. State L, 20-14

*-Overtime

a-@M&T Bank Stadium

Terps under Friedgen

Year Overall ACC

2001 10-2 7-1

2002 11-3 6-2 2003 10-3 6-2

2004 5-6 3-5

2005 5-6 3-5

Totals 41-20 25-15

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