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Better late than never

November 28, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Sam Hollenbach decided to give Maryland one more chance.

On Saturday, he was rewarded for his patience and perseverance when the Terrapins decided to give the sophomore quarterback his first chance.

Both sides made out for it in the long run.

Hollenbach got his first start of the season in the final game of the year and gave Maryland a methodical lift to finish the season on a high note with a 13-7 win over Wake Forest at Byrd Stadium in a game which had more pride than prosperity at stake.

For Hollenbach, it was a preview of everything that could have been if he had beaten out Joel Statham for the starting quarterback job at the beginning of the season. But instead, it took Statham's ineffectiveness and an injury to backup Jordan Steffey to put him on the field for the chance that almost never materialized if he had reacted on his initial feelings after losing the starting job.

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"We did talk about transferring as a possibility at the beginning," Hollenbach said after leading the Terps to their first win in three games to allow them to finish with a 5-6 record. "I decided to stick it out with the program for the entire year to see how things would shake out. I had to wait and see what would happen."

Hollenbach's ability to wait in the shadows allowed him the chance to see this day.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore wasn't spectacular, just efficient, which was something Maryland had been lacking for most of the season.

"I'm really proud of Sam," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "He is tremendous. He played with composure and poise. Today, he was very calm. The early start helped his confidence for the rest of the game. Who knows where this will take him?"

That is yet to be seen. Hollenbach still hasn't ruled out a possible transfer, saying Saturday's game will "help him with his motivation to get to the weight room."

Friedgen said Hollenbach will get another look during the spring, but ...

Still, Hollenbach's audition was one that made many scratch their heads about what might have been if he had started this season instead of Statham.

Statistically, Hollenbach threw for just 164 yards - only 14 in the second half - and was plagued with the problems that have hounded Maryland throughout the season, but he also guided the Terps to their first touchdown since the third quarter of the Florida State game for a 13-0 halftime lead.

And maybe the biggest factor of all was that Hollenbach didn't turn the ball over. There were no interceptions thrown in desperation, nor any fumbled snaps or mishandled handoffs which slowed the progress of Statham and sent Maryland into its offensive tailspin.

"Sam did a heck of a job," Friedgen said. "He executed the offense and didn't force the ball. He took what he was given and he put us in the right plays in our running game."

Maryland did well in the first half, rolling up 239 of its 296 yards in the first 30 minutes. Part of the ineffectiveness stemmed when tailback Josh Allen suffered a devastating knee injury and was carted off the field near the end of the half.

The other part, though, was Hollenbach's inexperience.

"I felt comfortable out there," he said. "I felt like we were moving the ball on these guys. I felt like the offense was clicking, but the mistakes that were made were my fault when we didn't get points. There was one time when we should have got a field goal and another when we should have had a touchdown, but I made the mistakes."

Friedgen gave Hollenbach every opportunity to get into the flow of the game early, which gave the Terps the early lead they were forced to protect in the end.

"Sam told us what plays he was comfortable with and we got them in the game early," Friedgen said. "We got out fast and that helped his success in the first half. That was a key."

Maryland's defense came to the rescue, allowing only a touchdown off a special teams gaffe when a punt hit blocker J.J. Justice and gave Wake Forest the ball on the Terps 28. Like it did much of the season, the defense made up for offensive deficiencies, and this time it was for a win.

It put an end to a season many would like to forget at Maryland. When the game ended, a number of key seniors had finished their last games and key players - such as defensive end Shawne Merriman and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson openly pondered the idea of leaving. Add to it Allen's knee injury and the quarterback situation jumbled again by Hollenbach's play on Saturday, the end of the season couldn't have come at a better time.

Yet, there was a lesson in it all.

"I'm real happy for Sam," Friedgen said. "I was praying for him to do well. I'm proud of him for what he learned in life. ... To go out and keep going no matter what happens."

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