Terps turn over new leaf with takeaways

October 22, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It might be better to give than receive, but for the University of Maryland, taking is a whole lot more satisfying.

Turnovers have only been a dessert option for the Terrapins for much of the season. On Saturday, it was a main course in Maryland's 26-20 Homecoming victory over North Carolina State at Byrd Stadium.

In what may be considered a shift in fortunes, Maryland held a 3-1 turnover edge over the Wolfpack. It translated into a short field and 17 second-half points to give the Terps the working margin for an important Atlantic Coast Conference victory.

Maryland got two turnovers on N.C. State's first two plays of the second half to turn a 6-0 halftime advantage into a 20-0 lead it was able to milk for a win that puts the Terps in the thick of the wacky ACC Atlantic Division race.


"We worked on that in practice," Maryland linebacker Wesley Jefferson said. "(Defensive coordinator Chris) Coss talked about the (Chicago) Bears. He asked us what we wanted to do with turnovers. We said get the ball. He said, 'No, we are going to score off the defense.' We want to take the ball and score."

Maryland's defense didn't put the ball in the end zone, but it did make live unbearable for N.C. State. The menacing rush kept the Wolfpack off stride, taking away the majority of the passing attack, and with it, the confidence of quarterback Daniel Evans.

Add the turnovers - especially the ones to start the second half - and the Terps got everything they wanted and had been looking for.

"It feeds off itself," Jefferson said. "It is all momentum. Our confidence level is very high right now. We knew what we had to do and we were able to stop their momentum on a few drives."

For Maryland, it was a big step in the right direction.

"(Getting the turnovers) was very big from a mental standpoint," Maryland defensive back Christian Varner said. "We knew we could do it. We had to show we could do it."

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has lamented the Terps' inability to take the ball away. The Terps were minus-6 in turnover differential entering the game (14 giveaways, eight takeaways), with opponents holding a 38-28 advantage in points scored following turnovers.

But in N.C. State, the Terps found a team which was more turnover-starved than they were. The Wolfpack are now minus-9 in turnovers.

"We turned them into touchdowns and that was big," Friedgen said.

It was the difference in the game.

Maryland managed two scoring drives in the first half, but both only resulted in Dan Ennis field goals. The Terps converted the first two gifts in the second half into touchdowns.

N.C. State's Andre Brown ran up the middle for 11 yards on the first play after the second-half kickoff, but coughed up the ball for Marcus Wimbush to recover on the Wolfpack 31.

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach capped the drive with a swing pass to Josh Allen for a 4-yard score and a 13-0 Maryland lead at the 11:56 mark of the third quarter.

Lightning struck twice when Erin Henderson picked off Evans' pass on the first play after the ensuing kickoff. The Terps got the ball at the State 24, setting up a four-play drive capped by Lance Ball's 2-yard run. Less than five minutes into the second half, a precarious six-point lead turned into a 20-point bulge.

"It was big just to get the touchdowns," Hollenbach said. "It helped the defense and it helped give us the momentum. The defense sparked it. Our job is to get points, even if they are field goals, but getting the touchdowns were big."

N.C. State managed to mount a comeback, rallying to within 10 at 23-13, and was in prime position after Maryland fumbled away a kickoff. J.J. Justice turned the momentum back, intercepting Evans' pass with 6:20 remaining.

Maryland worked the ball down and settled for Ennis' fourth field goal - a 28-yarder - to make it 26-13.

"I didn't want to kick the field goal," Friedgen said. "I'm glad I did. Reason prevailed and my testosterone lost.

"It's very hard to get up each and every week, but the team that does that is going to win the conference. It's like a mountain we're trying to climb. The good teams that are confident, they know they're going to win. I think sometimes we still think we're going to win. You can't be looking over your shoulder. You've got to believe that good things are going to happen."

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