Uneven Start, Winning Result
Sunday, September 3, 2006
Any presence of major drama last night would have been a bad sign for the Maryland Terrapins.
Drama would have meant that quarterback Sam Hollenbach had fallen back into his turnover-prone ways. Drama would have meant that Division I-AA William & Mary had lived up to its reputation for putting a scare into the big boys. Drama would have meant negative talk about a program trying desperately to erase back-to-back 5-6 seasons.
So the Terrapins delivered a perfectly uneventful 27-14 victory in their season opener, sending most of the 49,763 at Byrd Stadium home content and leaving Coach Ralph Friedgen neither happy nor horrified.
Sure, there was a hint of drama when Tribe backup quarterback Mike Potts hit wide receiver D.J. McAulay with a 49-yard touchdown pass with 4 minutes 35 seconds left. But the score was mostly cosmetic as the first-team defense returned to the field to slam the door on any upset hopes.
"Our defense faded and got a little tired at the end," Friedgen said. "Same with our offense."
Nevertheless, the Terrapins handled William & Mary despite committing four turnovers, though none was credited to Hollenbach.
The quarterback didn't exactly pick apart the Tribe, going 9 for 15 for 153 yards, though Friedgen didn't ask him to. But Hollenbach did deliver three nice deep strikes.
In the first quarter, Hollenbach fired a 42-yarder to tight end Joey Haynos that set up a two-yard touchdown run by Lance Ball to make it 7-0. Hollenbach hooked up with wide receiver Danny Oquendo for a 38-yarder that led to a one-yard run by Keon Lattimore to make it 14-0 Terrapins. Just before the end of the half, Hollenbach stood up to heavy pressure to hit Isaiah Williams with a 47-yarder that set up Ball's second touchdown run to put Maryland ahead 24-7.
"I didn't really do much out there," Hollenbach said. "The offensive line and running backs played great. You can win games like that, too."
For the most part, Friedgen stuck to the ground game.
Friedgen's debut in his dual role as offensive coordinator and head coach produced a strong rushing performance. The Terrapins leaned on Lattimore and Ball, who combined for three touchdowns and 175 yards rushing. Lattimore started the game and played the way he's been practicing, leading the team with 89 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. He also recorded a career-high 34-yard run in the third quarter.
"I'm pretty sure we could have thrown the ball more, but I don't know what that proves," Friedgen said. "I could have done that [throw deep] more, but it was better to run the ball and get better in that area."
Running back Josh Allen played after missing last season with a knee injury, rushing for 25 yards on six carries.
Leading 17-7 in the first half, Friedgen brought backup quarterback Jordan Steffy into the game, and he threw an interception. Hollenbach returned to the game until the fourth quarter. Steffy took over again, and fumbled while trying to hand off. He finished 0 for 5, responsible for two turnovers.
"Steffy was playing pretty good in practice," Friedgen said. "I wanted to see how he'd be with the game still on the line."
Aside from Steffy's gaffes, the Terrapins turned the ball over in the first half when Oquendo fumbled after making a catch, though it looked as if his own teammate, tight end Dan Gronkowski, accidentally dislodged the ball. The Terps also lost possession when a short William & Mary punt bounced off the foot of Isaiah Gardner, allowing the Tribe to recover.
"As long as you have turnovers, you give them a chance to win the game," Friedgen said.
But the Terrapins helped made up for the mistakes with strong special teams play.
Cornerback Josh Wilson blocked one punt and nearly got another. Dan Ennis booted two field goals after fighting all through training camp to keep his job, and punter Adam Podlesh pinned the Tribe inside the 20-yard line three times.