Terrapins Take A Safe Route Again in Victory
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Perhaps the Maryland Terrapins' goal over their first two games was to reveal nothing while still getting the victories. If so, mission accomplished.
With a Thursday night date at No. 6 West Virginia looming, the Terrapins prevailed in a rather pedestrian outing last night, beating Middle Tennessee, 24-10, in front of 47,704 at Byrd Stadium.
"It seems like we're playing on eggshells," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Just as he did against William & Mary last week, Friedgen again stayed locked to a conservative game plan that saw just one pass attempt downfield. The offense didn't look particularly aggressive, despite reaping the benefits of a short field several times, and the defense looked content to guard against the big play.
Nevertheless, the Terrapins got enough out of Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore on the ground, taking a 24-3 lead in the third quarter while never being seriously challenged by the Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee outgained the Terrapins 321-274 on offense and won the time of possession battle by nearly nine minutes. The Blue Raiders fared better than Terrapins on third down, converting on nine out of 16 tries, compared to Maryland's 3 of 8.
But Middle Tennessee Coach Rick Stockstill took a more realistic slant.
"Statistics are for losers," he said. "And we lost the game."
The Terrapins' defense forced Stockstill's offense to get one-dimensional, limiting the Blue Raiders to 40 yards on the ground. Quarterback Clint Marks went 22 for 41 for 216 yards but paid the price, facing a much-improved pass rush that sacked him three times and hurried him for most of the night.
Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach once again presided over another conservative offensive outing, going 11 for 16 for 139 yards. His long pass was a 22-yarder to tight end Joey Haynos, who finished the night as the Terps' top receiver with three catches for 45 yards. Friedgen asked Hollenbach to go downfield just once, in the second half when the game was already in hand.
"We really still haven't come out of our shell on offense," Hollenbach said. "We have a lot more to offer."
Again, the running game delivered, as Lattimore and Ball combined for 144 yards.
Yet the feeling after the game was simply that the last night's performance wouldn't cut it in what's going to be a harsh environment at West Virginia on Thursday night.
"Absolutely not," linebacker Wesley Jefferson said. "Again, we were not as sharp as we need to be."
The Terrapins needed just 2 minutes 37 seconds to get on the board.
Josh Wilson returned the opening kickoff 61 yards, putting the Terrapins on the Blue Raiders 39. On the second play from scrimmage, Lattimore broke a 24-yard run. The long gain set up Ball's 12-yard touchdown run to give the Terrapins a 7-0 lead.
A penalty on the ensuing kickoff pinned Middle Tennessee inside its 10. With the Blue Raiders facing a third and 11 from their 8, Gross broke a 39-yard run to keep the drive going. The Blue Raiders capped the drive with Colby Smith's 42-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 6:42 left in the first quarter.
Hollenbach hit tight end Haynos with a 22-yard strike to put Maryland in Blue Raiders territory on the next drive. Five plays later, Dan Ennis delivered a 37-yard field goal to put the Terrapins up 10-3 with 4:06 left in the opening quarter.
Hollenbach's one-yard touchdown dive capped a nine-play, 61-yard drive to put the Terrapins ahead 17-3 with 7:04 left in the second quarter.
Ball's two-yard touchdown run put Maryland ahead 24-3 in the third quarter.
The score could have been higher, but Ennis missed two field-goal attempts.
Nevertheless, on an ordinary night after an ordinary performance, Friedgen made an ordinary and obvious point.
"We've got to rise to the occasion, take our game to another level," Friedgen said.