Bad season gets worse for Turner, Terrapins
Sunday, November 8, 2009
RALEIGH, N.C. --
A back-and-forth offensive showcase in the first half Saturday set the stage for a second-half shootout between two capable quarterbacks. But when Maryland and North Carolina State returned to the field after halftime, only one team had the personnel needed to participate.
After Maryland quarterback Chris Turner was knocked out of the game late in the second quarter with a left knee injury, Maryland's offense could not keep pace with a Wolfpack offense that had collected 292 yards in the first half alone. Opportunistic defensive and special teams plays kept the Terrapins competitive, but they ultimately lost, 38-31.
With Maryland (2-7, 1-4 ACC) now officially eliminated from bowl contention, the most relevant remaining questions concern the direction of the program under Coach Ralph Friedgen and how the ninth-year coach will handle his quarterback situation over the final three games.
Friedgen said Turner suffered an injury to his medial collateral ligament but did not know its severity or whether the senior could play next Saturday against Virginia Tech. Friedgen could play backup Jamarr Robinson, who saw his first extensive action Saturday, and he did not rule out at some point playing freshman Danny O'Brien, who otherwise would redshirt.
"I am going to still try to win football games," Friedgen said. "Danny has got to be ready to play. Right now, he is an injury away from playing anyway."
Robinson, who will compete with O'Brien for next season's starting job, had an uneven performance Saturday. Admittedly jittery early on, Robinson threw incomplete on the first four pass attempts of his career, which included overthrowing an open LaQuan Williams deep downfield.
Robinson settled down in the fourth quarter, displaying elusiveness and leading Maryland on a 15-play drive that lasted more than eight minutes. On the game's decisive drive, however, Robinson was sacked and then hit hard on the game's final play as he was looking for a 42-yard pass play that could have tied the game.
"They were sending everyone they had on that last drive," Robinson said. "I was dodging players left and right."
Players said they have confidence in Robinson's ability to throw and to run, and Friedgen said Robinson "showed me something" by the way he performed in a tough situation.
But in the second half, Maryland amassed just 91 yards of offense. Robinson completed five of 11 passes for 27 yards.
The Terrapins relied on their defense and Torrey Smith's 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to remain competitive. After throwing just seven interceptions in 20 previous games in his career, N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson threw three Saturday.
Before he was injured, Turner had thrown for 135 yards and appeared on his way to a 300-yard passing day that possibly could have kept alive Maryland's slim bowl hopes. But with a little less than five minutes remaining in the first half, Wolfpack defensive end Shea McKeen hit Turner as he released the ball.
Turner remained on the ground for a few minutes, placing his hands over his face at times. He needed to be assisted from the field and could not put much weight on the leg. In the second half, he returned to the field but was not in uniform.
"It was a big change in the game because the difference between the quarterbacks [Turner and Robinson] is night and day," N.C. State Coach Tom O'Brien said.
Turner's injury was just one subplot in a wild first half that included Maryland's first defensive touchdown in more than three years and enough explosive plays to fill highlight reels for both teams.
Turner was intercepted on the game's first snap by defensive end Willie Young, who lurked in front of wide receiver Ronnie Tyler. Two plays later, Wilson threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end George Bryan.
A seven-point deficit was nothing in a game like this. Maryland used a no-huddle attack and did not have a tailback on the field for the first nine plays, looking to carve up a defense that had been carved up on a weekly basis. Turner used 10 plays to lead Maryland on a 69-yard drive that running back Davin Meggett capped with a one-yard touchdown run.
And the first-half shootout was on.
"It was pretty chaotic," Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak said, "running on and off the field."
Later in the quarter, facing a fourth-and-six situation from the Maryland 33, the Wolfpack (4-5, 1-4) went for it but Wilson threw a pass to Wujciak, who raced down the sideline for a 70-yard return for a touchdown.
It represented Maryland's first defensive touchdown since Oct. 14, 2006, a streak of 41 games without a defensive touchdown that had been the longest in the country.
After the game, Friedgen reiterated that he has been pleased with his players' work ethic. He talked about enduring large doses of adversity in his coaching career before a breakthrough. But after securing his fourth losing season in the past six years, he acknowledged: "It has not been a good year. I am not feeling real good right now."