- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

Sam Hollenbach is playing in pain and admittedly not making the same quality of decisions as he did in the first half of the season. He’s committing turnovers at a rate that might force Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen to lose what hair he has left.

The Terrapins quarterback also hears the footsteps, the impending arrival of ferocious defensive linemen stalking an already wounded prey, even if they are still outside the pocket. He can’t help it, though blocking it out could be a needed element for Maryland (5-5, 3-4 ACC) to clinch bowl eligibility Saturday at N.C. State (5-5, 2-5).

“We’ve played some good defensive lines the last couple weeks, and I can’t be worried about that,” Hollenbach said. “That’s something I tell myself. You have to look at the coverages, and you have to look at your reads and not be worried about defensive pressure as far as the line is concerned. I have to be able to keep my eyes downfield more and not worry about feeling pressure and getting rid of the ball too quick when it’s not really there.”

Turnovers have plagued Hollenbach since he returned from a separated collarbone Oct. 20 against Virginia Tech. His two interceptions Nov. 12 at North Carolina led to 14 Tar Heels points, but he rallied the Terps to an overtime victory with a pair of long touchdown passes.

His errors in Saturday’s 31-16 loss to Boston College — two interceptions and a fumble — were more difficult to ignore. Two of the miscues were brought back for touchdowns, and two came while the Terps were inside the Boston College 10.

The junior isn’t making excuses, though there are several valid reasons for his recent struggles. Hollenbach’s left shoulder still aches, and he requires up to 2 hours of treatment each day just to practice and play. He also has absorbed seven sacks in the last two games and been pressured several more times.

“He keeps taking some hits, and he kept getting back up and fighting,” left guard Donnie Woods said. “I just don’t think we did a good enough job protecting him. It’s tough when you have guys in your face to make throws.”

Hollenbach’s first performance-related benching of the season came Saturday, though it did nothing to improve Maryland’s fortunes. Backup Joel Statham was intercepted on his only play before Hollenbach returned for the Terps’ final possession.

“I think his confidence is a little shook, and that’s understandable,” said Friedgen, who reiterated yesterday that Hollenbach is his starter. “What we have to do is show him some earlier tape when he was playing pretty well. He’s strong enough to come back.”

Hollenbach’s chance to do so will arrive Saturday in what has the potential to produce long-term reverberations for both Maryland and N.C. State. Neither team reached the postseason last year, and both would like to salvage a bowl bid in 2005.

For the Terps to do so, Hollenbach must revert to his early season efficiency. His cool manner, moxie and strong arm remain intact. Even with his ailing collarbone, Hollenbach still can lead Maryland to a bowl and leave the Terps feeling far better about their season than they do right now.

“I had a lot of players come up to me personally and show me some support and say everyone’s behind me,” Hollenbach said. “From my standpoint, I have no issues with the way this team’s playing and the effort we’re giving. It’s so frustrating because I feel we’re a better team than our record right now. Next week, hopefully we can show what we’re made of.”

Notes — When asked whether he would consider using sophomore quarterback Jordan Steffy, who is attempting to redshirt this season, on Saturday, Friedgen replied, “I don’t think I would do that right now. Something would have to happen to Joel.” …

Friedgen said cornerback Josh Wilson apologized for getting ejected Saturday. Officials told Friedgen that Wilson had tried to kick a Boston College player, but the incident was not interpreted as fighting. Wilson would have faced a one-game suspension if he had been ejected for fighting.

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