Maryland football holds off Navy, 17-14, in sloppy season opener
Tuesday, September 7, 2010; 12:14 AM
BALTIMORE - Of the 121 plays in Monday's game between Navy and Maryland, four snaps that Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs took - each with Maryland's goal line in sight - decided the outcome of an atypical season-opening game.
Three times Dobbs fumbled the ball. And the final time, a decisive fourth-and-goal play inside the Maryland 1 with 37 seconds remaining, Dobbs barreled forward but collided with safety Kenny Tate and fell 12 inches short of the end zone.
The Terrapins, whose coach said his 2009 team was cursed by chronic bad luck, were nothing if not fortunate on a near-cloudless Monday, winning 17-14, perhaps in spite of themselves.
The Midshipmen, who had designs on going undefeated, amassed 485 total yards. They controlled the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game. And they converted 10 of 18 third-down chances. But Dobbs, a dynamic player who scored 27 rushing touchdowns last season, failed to come through time and again just feet from the goal line, no play bigger than the one in the final minute.
"I can't tell you how many of those plays I got," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said, choosing his words carefully, "how many didn't go my way [through the years]. I'll put it that way."
Afterward, Friedgen told his team that it would have lost a similar game last season. This year, after spending the offseason focusing on finishing strong, the Terrapins survived in what they hope will be a tone-setting victory to what many believe is a make-or-break season for Friedgen.
Before Friedgen entered his postgame news conference, he met Kevin Anderson, Maryland's new athletic director, for the first time. Anderson, who had been Army's athletic director since 2004, had not worked for a school that had beaten Navy, so he was pleased. So were Friedgen and his players, despite the ups and downs of an uneven performance.
"All those doubts about this team finishing, I think we erased those doubts today," center Paul Pinegar said. "It's definitely a relief. Getting this first win was something we had been looking forward to since January, when we reported for winter workouts."
Maryland relied almost exclusively on its rushing attack, collecting 261 yards on the ground. Starting quarterback Jamarr Robinson completed just 2 of 5 passes for 11 yards and he threw one interception.
For one series in the third quarter, Friedgen replaced Robinson with redshirt freshman Danny O'Brien. That drive was short-lived, concluding with a fumble on a handoff exchange with running back Davin Meggett. Robinson finished the game and is expected to start Saturday against Morgan State.
"We're going to play both quarterbacks," Friedgen said. "It's nothing against Jamarr."
The Navy fans who sat among the 69,348 at M&T Bank Stadium had far more reason to be frustrated with the offense. Navy squandered opportunities to score at least 27 more points in the game.