Sunk in the Atlantic
Sunday, November 26, 2006
At the end of each game, away from the lights, the distractions and the crowd at Byrd Stadium, Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach typically leads his team during a solemn moment of reflection, the recitation of the Lord's Prayer. But last night, after the Terrapins fell, 38-24, to No. 20 Wake Forest and missed a chance to play for the ACC championship, the words failed to come out of Hollenbach's mouth.
"I couldn't even say it," said Hollenbach, who sat motionless in front of his locker for nearly 15 minutes, trying to contemplate exactly how he and his teammates let their chance slip away. "It was real quiet. Everybody filed out of there real quick."
In a few days, or perhaps sooner, the Terrapins will talk about ending their season with a bowl appearance, the program's first since 2004. They will reflect on a breakout season in which they beat rival Virginia and ACC powers Florida State, Miami and Clemson.
Eventually, they will acknowledge the progress made in a season full of thrills.
But last night, the Terrapins could feel only bitterness.
"It's tough, so tough," said Hollenbach, whose three first-half interceptions doomed the Terrapins. "I don't think I've ever felt this bad after a loss. It just seemed that all our cards were right there for us -- had a perfect situation, a perfect night, great atmosphere. We just couldn't pull through."
Running back Keon Lattimore rushed for a career-high 119 yards, and Hollenbach rebounded from a brutal start with a solid second half. But the Terrapins (8-4, 5-3) failed to slow the Demon Deacons' misdirection ground attack. Wake Forest rushed for 296 yards -- 165 by tailback Kevin Moore -- and beat the Terrapins for the first time since 1999, a span of seven games. The Demon Deacons (10-2, 6-2) captured the Atlantic Division title and will face Georgia Tech in Saturday's conference championship game in Jacksonville, Fla.
"We didn't show up tonight," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "It was like we didn't want to be there."
Trailing repeatedly by two touchdowns, the Terrapins rallied and closed within 31-24 when Hollenbach hit Isaiah Williams in the back of the end zone with 12:54 left in the game. The score was set up by a 48-yard pass from Hollenbach to Williams.
But the Demon Deacons put the game away on their next drive, going 72 yards entirely on the ground. Fullback Rich Belton's capped the march with a one-yard plunge on fourth down and goal to make it 38-24 with 7:21 left.
"They just took it down and scored again on us," Friedgen said. "Disheartening, really disheartening. If you want to be a champion, you have to raise up in those situations and we didn't do it."
Maryland fell behind 21-7 with 7:42 left in the second quarter when Wake Forest wide receiver Willie Idlette beat Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson in the middle of the field. Demon Deacons quarterback Riley Skinner hit Idlette in stride for a 49-yard touchdown pass, quieting a sellout crowd of 51,500 at Byrd Stadium.
But the Terrapins responded with an eight-play 65-yard touchdown drive. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was questionable before the game because of a concussion suffered in last week's loss at Boston College, caught two passes for 27 yards on the drive. Tight end Jason Goode contributed a 20-yard catch to set up the score, adjusting on an under-thrown pass from Hollenbach to put the Terrapins on the Wake Forest 1-yard line. Maryland running back Lance Ball finished the drive, running through safety Patrick Ghee to reach the goal line and cut the Demon Deacons' lead to 21-14 with 4:40 left in the half.
But the Demon Deacons restored their 14-point advantage on their first possession of the second half, with Kevin Harris's second touchdown run of the game.
The three-yard touchdown came after a crucial third-down conversion. Facing third and eight on the Maryland 20-yard line, Skinner hit tight end John Tereshinski, who slid to keep the ball from hitting the turf. Tereshinski was upheld after a replay review, and two plays later, Harris scored to make it 28-14.
Despite the loss the Terrapins will surely earn a bowl invitation -- perhaps against Navy in the Dec. 30 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte -- but will stagger into the postseason on the heels of back-to-back losses.
Still, the Terrapins hope to take some solace out of the fact that their season isn't over yet.
"The game was over so fast," Hollenbach said. "It is kind of a shock for us. Here we were so pumped up going into this, and it ended like that. Luckily we have another game. Last year we had the same situation and that was it. I guess, fortunately, we can suit up one more time and hopefully go out on a better note."