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RALEIGH, N.C. -- The broken record that was the Maryland football team's season came to an end yesterday.
There were turnovers aplenty and botched chances on offense, poor decisions and penalties. And when the Terrapins stumbled out of Carter-Finley Stadium with a 20-14 loss to N.C. State, they were assured of a second consecutive 5-6 season and another postseason to spend at home pondering the possibilities of a year gone awry.
"You can't turn the ball over," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Obviously, they're not getting the message, and you aren't, either. You can't turn the ball over and win football games. It can't happen. It's not going to happen. I've been saying the same thing over and over and over again."
Yet the Terrapins (5-6, 3-5 ACC) seemed determined to disprove that assertion. Maryland committed four turnovers that led to 17 N.C. State points, leaving the Terps with 14 giveaways in their final five games.
"We know we should be going to the postseason," left guard Donnie Woods said. "We've just done stupid stuff that's killed us. We kill ourselves, so sometimes it's not them beating us, it's us beating ourselves. We have to eliminate that next year if we want to take this program where it wants to go."
Wide receiver Derrick Fenner and linebacker William Kershaw did not play, and defensive end Jeremy Navarre sat out the first half before entering early in the third quarter.
It was the last game in which Friedgen could have levied one-game suspensions against three players involved in a fight at a College Park bar Nov.1 and an undisclosed suspension against another player for underage drinking. Friedgen has refused to name the suspended players since announcing the sanctions Nov.4.
When asked why the three didn't play, Friedgen said, "I'm not going to get into that. When are you going to learn?"
The Terps also played much of the day without right tackle Brandon Nixon, who suffered a neck stinger in practice earlier in the week and aggravated it in the first half. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Dane Randolph, who struggled to contain N.C. State's Mario Williams. The defensive end tied his own school record with four sacks and blew past Maryland linemen all day, though he was bottled up a bit when Jared Gaither was moved from left tackle to right tackle late in the game.
Despite those woes, Maryland entered the fourth quarter trailing 10-7, but its offense quickly made matters worse. Quarterback Sam Hollenbach lofted a pass down the right sideline to Danny Melendez. N.C. State's Marcus Hudson and Melendez leaped for the ball, and Hudson wrested away possession and ran 28 yards for a touchdown.
Two plays into the next possession, Williams forced Hollenbach to fumble, leading to John Deraney's 29-yard field goal that made it 20-7.
Hollenbach tried to bring the Terps back, leading an 11-play touchdown drive to pull Maryland within 20-14. It was capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis, who had eight catches and 108 yards in what could be his final college game if he opts to declare for the NFL Draft. Davis said after the game he was not sure whether he would turn pro.
That wouldn't be the only change for the Terps. A team spokesman confirmed last night defensive coordinator Gary Blackney retired after the game, although Blackney was unavailable for comment after the team left Raleigh yesterday. After the game, Friedgen said he did not anticipate any staff changes this offseason.
The frustration of the game -- and the season -- was evident throughout. The Terps committed a season-high 14 penalties for 93 yards, and kicker Dan Ennis missed two field goals in the first half that could have extended Maryland's halftime lead beyond 7-3.
And then there was the final offensive play, a Hollenbach interception that allowed the Wolfpack to take a knee with 34 seconds left. It was a lasting reminder of how close the Terps were to a bowl game even though they spent so much time stopping themselves.
"I'm thinking to myself, 'Did we really go 5-6?'" senior wideout Jo Jo Walker said. "The way we played, it doesn't seem like we went 5-6. Last year you can say we went 1-9 or whatever it was. This year we just fought our hearts out. To go 5-6 is unbelievable."
By Tammy Bruce
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