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Terps' offense in uncharted area

October 17, 2004|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Maryland Terrapins football team under coach Ralph Friedgen is now traveling in uncharted territory.

Since returning to his alma mater in 2001, Friedgen's program has enjoyed a series of highs - an Atlantic Coast Conference title, a BCS bowl bid, three straight 10-win seasons and back-to-back bowl game victories.

But now, Friedgen and the Terrapins are finding out what it's like to see more teams in front of them than behind them.

Repeated efforts to spark Maryland's anemic offense failed Saturday as the Terrapins dropped their second straight ACC game at Byrd Stadium, 13-3 to North Carolina State.

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The Terrapins improved offensively over last week's 20-7 loss to Georgia Tech, but barely. Maryland managed just 91 yards against N.C. State, up from 81 yards a week ago.

"I don't think I've ever had two weeks like that back-to-back in my career," Friedgen said. "And it may be more unless we get something going. It's very embarassing to not play better than that offensively."

Maryland got just five first downs in the game, four of which came on the first drive of the game.

That drive showed promise, but instead turned out to be a sign that the Terrapins were in for a long day on the gridiron.

Josh Allen ran for 28 yards as the Terps moved the ball inside the Wolfpack 15-yard line. But the Terrapins had their first score of the game - a 32-yard field goal by Nick Novak - negated by an illegal formation penalty in the first quarter. Novak then missed from 37 yards.

"I'd like to see us kick that field goal. That was a big miss," Friedgen said. "I thought Joel (Statham) made some plays on the first drive. I thought he made a couple of pressure throws on third down. We were running the ball pretty good."

As far as the offense was concerned, however, that drive was the beginning and the end. Sixty-one of the Terps' 91 yards came on that drive.

"It's a lot of frustration. There are breakdowns everywhere," center Kyle Schmitt said. "The offensive line, the quarterback, the riunning backs and the receivers. It's not one guy or one position. It's everybody."

The rest of the game was simply one missed opportunity after another for Maryland.

· After a 15-yard personal foul penalty moved the driving Wolfpack back into their own territory, Darrell Blackman made a one-handed grab of a Jay Davis pass on the sideline for a 30-yard gain.

· Two plays later, D'Qwell Jackson appeared to sack Davis, who lost the ball. Shawne Merriman picked up the ball and scooted 60 yards to the end zone. That play was rubbed out by a 15-yard face mask call against Jackson and kept alive a drive that led to a Wolfpack touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

· Friedgen inserted Jordan Steffy at quarterback midway through the third quarter after the Terps managed just 53 yards with Statham behind center. Maryland picked up just three yards on Steffy's first drive.

"It was the same as last week," Statham said. "They're just trying to get sometihng going on offense. They've got to do what they've got to do and coach the way they've got to coach. They have to make things happen."

· The Terrapins, without a first down in more than two quarters, went for it on fourth-and-1 at their own 34-yard line late in the third quarter. Sammy Maldonado, who carried the ball just three times in the first half, was stopped for a 1-yard loss on his third consecutive carry.

· On their next possession, after Maldonado finally did get the Terrapins a first down, a holding penalty and a sack of Steffy stalled another drive.

· Another apparent Maryland score - this one a safety when Davis was sacked in the end zone - was erased when officials ruled the Wolfpack had called a timeout before the play began.

"The calls definitely didn't go our way this week," Friedgen said. "That's three plays (the officials) took off. That's 12 points right there. It's 13-12. It just wasn't our night."

The poor offensive performance leaves Friedgen in a quandry when considering his starting quarterback. Neither Statham or Steffy played particularly well and Friedgen is at a loss.

"It's all I got. What do you want me to do, manufacture (a quarterback)?" Friedgen said. "We have two kids that are growing and I'm not sure tonight is a fair evaluation.

"Obviously tonight you can see it's not all the quarterback. There are other problems there, too."

With games against Florida State and Virginia - both in the top 10 - still looming on the schedule, the Terrapins are facing the prospect of ending their season in November this year with no chance at a bowl game.

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