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Maryland foiled by road map at WVU

September 18, 2004|By BOB PARASILITI

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The University of Maryland football team found itself in all the wrong parts of town.

The Terrapins traveled on Turnover Turnpike with a turn on Bummed Boulevard before ending up on Losing Lane, all the wrong directions when visiting West Virginia University's Mountaineer Field.

But the last place Maryland expected to be in its first journey on the road, with all the problems against it, was in the game.

The Terps overcame five turnovers and a multitude of experience problems Saturday to almost push the No. 7 Mountaineers off the Top 25 map, but fell short of the final destination in a 19-16 overtime loss.

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"We didn't take very good care of the ball today, but I still think we did some good things," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "It's amazing that we had four turnovers at halftime and were only down (four)."

Stunning may have been a better word. Especially since West Virginia needed Rasheed Marshall's 7-yard scoring pass to receiver Chris Henry to pull out the victory in overtime.

No. 21 Maryland showed its inexperience on the field and on the road by turning over the ball in its first two possessions - the second to spot WVU a 6-yard touchdown run by Kay-Jay Harris and a 7-0 lead - and went three plays and out on the third try. The only saving grace came as the Mountaineers failed on drive-sustaining plays to keep the game close.

It was a far different game for the Terps, who had defeated WVU four straight times over the last three years and by a combined score of 123-31 in the last three meetings.

"People have been saying that we have been fortunate (against WVU)," Friedgen said. "Today, we were not fortunate, but we were fortunate to be in the game."

The Terps limped to a 7-3 halftime deficit while enduring the growing pains of quarterback Joel Statham, who threw three first-half interceptions in his first road appearance as Maryland's starter. Add to it a fumble by tailback Josh Allen on Maryland's first offensive play and the Terps were mixing up a recipe for disaster with a side of blowout.

"When we came in at halftime, Coach told us we couldn't play any worse," Statham said. "The interceptions are all me. I have to be more focused. It's a matter of making plays. In the first half, I didn't do it. In the second half, I did, but they made more."

Friedgen said two of Statham's interceptions were tipped and the third came with Mountaineer players in his face.

"Sometimes he has to understand that if people are covered, he has a third option," Friedgen said. "A sack is better than an interception. An incompletion is even better."

Statham went from 2 of 8 for 20 yards and three interceptions in the first half to finish 9 of 20 for 108 yards with two scoring drives - including a 27-yard TD pass to Derrick Fenner - which gave Maryland a 13-10 lead, stunning the sellout crowd at Mountaineer Field. Still, the sophomore admits there is much he still has to master.

"The one (interception), I let the jitters get to me and it got tipped," he said. "I have to be more focused. It's something I have to work on."

WVU fought back to tie the game at 13-13 and had two chances to win the game in regulation. Kicker Brad Cooper missed a 44-yard field goal but got a second chance when Maryland jumped offsides. Then, Maryland junior linebacker William Kershaw blocked the ensuing 39-yard try to send the game into overtime.

Maryland also had its shot to win the game in regulation, but kicker Nick Novak missed a 49-yard attempt wide to the left with 1:15 remaining to keep the tie.

"I thought he hit it really well," Friedgen said. "The wind was swirling and may have had an effect on it. When he missed it, it was huge. You've got to make those."

Novak couldn't deny Friedgen's assessment.

"(The scoreboard end) had a strong wind going from right to left," Novak said. "But that's no excuse to miss it. I tried to kick it too hard and may have changed my motion a little. The wind took it to the right and I should have sent it more to the left."

Novak redeemed himself with a 33-yard field goal to cap Maryland's overtime drive. The Terps were faced with fourth-and-1 at the 16, but elected to take the points and the lead.

"I thought about going for the first down there," Friedgen said. "If you make it, you look like a wise man. If you don't, you don't look so wise."

WVU took its shot from the 25 and drove for a first down using runs by Marshall and Harris. On third down, Marshall passed to Henry to complete the victory.

The Terps' winning streak against WVU was done and their 10-year drought against teams in the Top 10 remained. But with five turnovers, Friedgen was on the road back home knowing he couldn't have expected much better without a miracle.

"I thought we had a chance to win the game. If they are No. 7 in the nation, we can't be far back," Friedgen said. "If we had made that last play, they have to kick a field goal and we still might be out there playing. You know, they made one more play than we made. That's how we lose the game."

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