Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen was hoping for "hot as hell" weather during yesterday's final preseason scrimmage; instead it was deliciously mild. He wanted to use the 100-play scrimmage to jump-start the Terps' running game; instead, four tailbacks combined to gain 93 yards on 30 carries, an average of 3.1 yards per carry. Most of all, Friedgen wanted to avoid serious injuries, and the status of that goal will be determined today.
Wide receiver Derrick Fenner caught three passes for 75 yards but twisted an ankle near the conclusion of the scrimmage, which was closed to the public and the media; he will be reevaluated today. Another receiver, Danny Melendez, had four catches including a five-yard touchdown, but a hit from safety Christian Varner left Melendez woozy. Cornerback Gerrick McPhearson also turned an ankle, and kicker Obi Egekeze injured a thigh during kickoff coverage, possibly clearing the way for Dan Ennis to claim a job that has been closely contested since last spring.
There were bright spots, including another strong performance from starting quarterback Sam Hollenbach and the first-string offense. In its first three drives, that offense amassed 17 points, scoring on a 12-yard reverse to Jo Jo Walker, the pass to Melendez and a 47-yard field goal from Ennis.
"The offense was just going through the defense," Friedgen said.
Hollenbach finished 14 for 22 with 208 yards and two touchdowns, and his completion percentage would have been higher but for several dropped balls.
Those results had defensive coordinator Gary Blackney lamenting broken coverages and missed tackles, offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe admitting to "guarded optimism" and Hollenbach again talking about how comfortable he has felt shepherding a unit that struggled so badly a year ago.
"I don't think it's a surprise," he said. "If everybody's doing basically what they're coached to do, we can move the ball. I think it's that simple. That's why Coach Friedgen has a good thing going here with this offense."
Former starter Joel Statham was 15 for 26 with one interception, and made several poor decisions, Friedgen said. But the coach said Statham will remain second on the depth chart, ahead of sophomore Jordan Steffy. Mario Merrills led the tailbacks with 10 carries for 45 yards, although Taaffe said no decision has been made on a starter for Maryland's Sept. 3 opener against Navy.
Freshman wide receiver Isaiah Williams played after missing the previous scrimmage with a shoulder injury and failed to record a catch. Another freshman receiver, Darrius Heyward-Bey, was out with an ankle injury suffered in Wednesday evening's practice.