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Maryland passes first test

September 03, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - As grading scales go, the University of Maryland football team had a different rating system than usual on Saturday.

The Terrapins didn't play their 'A' game against William & Mary. Nor their 'B.' It was better than an average 'C' and much better than any 'F' for failure.

This one was a 'W,' and that's all that counted in the season opener.

Maryland did just enough in the first half to take control of the game and held off William & Mary, a Division I-AA opponent, for an unspectacular yet workmanlike 27-14 victory at Byrd Stadium.

"I'm happy with the first win of the season," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I thought we played well in the beginning and we got a lot of different kids in in the second half. We have a lot to learn from this game."

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It was exactly what Maryland needed in an effort to rebuild again after two consecutive 5-6 seasons. The Terps are basically building from the ground up, using the basics to get started before turning up the degree of difficulty as the season progresses.

Saturday was the first checkpoint. Maryland stayed on the ground offensively while the defense worked on different looks through the new 4-4 alignment.

"It was a good game," Terps quarterback Sam Hollenbach said. "Whenever you get a win, it's good. I didn't do that much today. It was a lot of running. It was an even game for me. The offensive line and the running backs did all the work. You have to get wins that way, too."

Maryland looked to be using the Cliffs Notes version of the playbook against William & Mary. The Tribe presented a few situations that the Terps didn't expect, but Maryland countered by running the ball on 40 of 60 plays.

It was a showcase for the three main running backs - Keon Lattimore, Lance Ball and Josh Allen, in his first action since missing 2005 with a leg injury. Lattimore led off with 89 yards and a touchdown, followed by Ball with 86 yards and two scores and Allen with 28 yards.

"I think the running backs are the strength of the team," Friedgen said. "We are getting the line to start jelling and then get the receivers to make some plays and I think we have a chance to have a pretty good offense."

The runners showed the possibilities in the first half, moving the ball effectively to help Maryland build a 24-7 halftime lead.

"We think we have one of the best groups of running backs in the (Atlantic Coast Conference)," Lattimore said. "I'm comfortable with the rotation. It worked pretty good and it wore the other team out. Overall, we played OK, but we can play better."

The running game was set up by two other plays - a blocked punt by Josh Wilson, followed by a 43-yard pass from Hollenbach to tight end Joey Haynos to set up the first score.

"Coming into the game, you hope that (big plays) don't happen, but there were some mismatches there that they took advantage of and those things just happen," William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said.

Maryland's inconsistent play - partially caused by liberal substitutions to give backups experience - took away from a glowing report card. The Terps had more turnovers (4-0), less time of possession (31:27-28:33) and problems in third-down situations (2 of 10).

Those are the things that Friedgen remembers.

"We've got to stop turnovers," Friedgen said. "As long as you have turnovers, you're going to give any team a chance to win. We keep turning the ball over and we're not forcing any turnovers.

"We could have thrown the ball more, but I don't know if that proves anything. It was better for us to run the ball and get better at it. We have a long way to go yet. We got to keep working."

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