Maryland primed with Hollenbach

Quarterback puts experience on team's side

September 13, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

College Park -- One chair remained empty yesterday at a crowded table in the Maryland football team's cafeteria, reserved for starting quarterback Sam Hollenbach.

Television cameras were in place, microphones and tape recorders ready, and reporters were getting restless. All that was missing was the quarterback. A school spokesman called Hollenbach's cell phone to remind him of his obligation with the media, but Hollenbach missed the call.

He was in his dorm room, busy watching game film of West Virginia with his notes in front of him, and preparing for what he described as the "biggest game he's ever played in."

"The last thing -- the last thing you want to do is leave something out preparation-wise," said Hollenbach, who showed up about 15 minutes late for the interview session. "I want to make sure I'm as focused and as ready as I can be. ... Right now classes are on hold, everything else is on hold right now."

Tomorrow will mark the first time in 14 years that Maryland will take a senior starting quarterback into Morgantown, W.Va., to face the Mountaineers. In 1992, John Kaleo was a senior and a two-year starter, as well as the Terps' Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

Maryland lost that year, 34-33.

Hollenbach is hoping for a different outcome. He took over the starting role in the 2004 season finale, and those who have watched him develop said they have noticed a newfound confidence, quicker reads and better decision-making at the line of scrimmage. His experience and leadership are intangibles the team has lacked in recent years at quarterback.

"To me, it should be a big benefit," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Last time we went up there, we had a redshirt freshman who hadn't played and we turned it over five times and went into overtime. I'm hoping that's going to be one of our staples this year, that we have a guy there who's solid, has been in the big games and has played on Thursday night before and will help some of these young guys."

The question remains, though, if Hollenbach can direct the Terps to an upset in tomorrow night's 7:45 ESPN-televised kickoff against No. 5 West Virginia.

Hollenbach shouldered much of the blame after last year's 31-19 loss to the Mountaineers after finishing with four fumbles. The only one he lost came in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, but it halted one of Maryland's final attempts at a comeback.

"From last season into this season I really feel myself trying to be less concerned with the statistical-type things, and making smart plays and putting us in position to make plays," Hollenbach said. "A lot of that is running game stuff. It's hard for the average fan to see, but a lot of the running game stuff, I have to make decisions there."

Friedgen said there have been fewer lost yardage plays in the running game because Hollenbach is putting the team in a position to be successful.

"Even in a walk-through, when Coach Friedgen throws him a curveball, he fixes the situation," right guard Andrew Crummey said. "He's confident in what he's doing to the point where he's willing to take that risk and put himself out there and make that call, which is obviously what you want out of a quarterback."

Notes -- Maryland sophomore Jared Gaither is listed as the Terps' starting right tackle on this week's depth chart in place of Dane Randolph for tomorrow's game. Gaither had to work his way back into the starting lineup after serving a two-week suspension this summer and a suspension for the season opener. Gaither started last weekend, but Randolph was out with a sprained ankle. It is also the first week that nose tackle Carlos Feliciano and linebacker Dave Philistin are at the top of the depth chart, although both earned starts against Middle Tennessee State.heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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