Turnovers Cost Maryland in 34-13 Loss to Rutgers

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 27, 2009

A dank and dreary afternoon proved a fitting backdrop for a sloppy football game that had been deemed unworthy of television coverage. But all the offensive futility Rutgers mustered through three quarters was no match for the five turnovers committed by Maryland, whose season continued to unravel in a 34-13 loss on Saturday before 43,848 at Byrd Stadium.

"If we keep playing like this," Maryland quarterback Chris Turner said, "we're not going to win a game the rest of the year."

Through one-third of the season, the turnover-plagued Terrapins -- who have a combined nine giveaways the past two games -- have offered no indication they can avoid their fourth losing season in the past six years. And while Coach Ralph Friedgen's teams have historically gotten off to slow starts, this is the first time the Terrapins have started 1-3 in his nine seasons.

Maryland has yet to beat a division I-A team this season, and the Terrapins likely will be significant underdogs when they open ACC play next Saturday against Clemson. To make matters worse, Maryland is expected to be without all-ACC punter Travis Baltz, who Friedgen said is expected to be on crutches because of an ankle injury suffered in the first quarter.

The ire of Maryland fans is increasingly targeting one man, Friedgen, who is facing the low point of his tenure. One week after expressing anger at his postgame news conference, Friedgen talked in a hush Saturday, saying: "I'm sure it all starts with me. It is my responsibility to get these guys ready to play, and it is my responsibility to get these things corrected. I am accountable, too."

For the second straight week, Maryland's defense played well enough to win, but the same problems emerged: penalties (10 for 85 yards) and turnovers, including an interception returned 36 yards for a touchdown on the game's first snap.

Turner threw three interceptions in all and lost one fumble, which was recovered in the end zone for another Rutgers touchdown. In total, Rutgers quarterback Domenic Natale, starting in place of injured freshman Tom Savage, completed just one more pass (four) than Turner did to Rutgers players.

Terrapins wide receiver Torrey Smith said Rutgers primarily played a cover-two defense to force the Terrapins to run. But Maryland managed just 28 rushing yards on 24 carries, and starting running back Da'Rel Scott, who fumbled twice against Middle Tennessee, fumbled again Saturday.

"Over the years, it has been a trademark of ours that we don't do things like that," Friedgen said, "and it seems that we can't stop doing them this year."

Rutgers (3-1) entered the fourth quarter with 129 total yards, only to have running back Joe Martinek rush for 130 in the fourth quarter alone.

Trailing by seven with 6 minutes 40 seconds remaining, Maryland decided to go for it on fourth and three from the Rutgers 49. But Turner threw incomplete in the direction of wide receiver Adrian Cannon. Friedgen emphatically pleaded for a pass-interference call, to no avail.

The Scarlet Knights then iced the game when Martinek ran 29 yards down the middle of the field for a touchdown that put Rutgers ahead 27-13 with just less than five minutes remaining.

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