Maryland quarterback Jamarr Robinson was tripped up a couple of times with open field in front of him. His Virginia Tech counterpart, Tyrod Taylor, later picked up a fumble in the backfield and advanced it 30 yards.
To Ralph Friedgen, it was a microcosm of his team’s woebegone season in the middle of a 36-9 loss to the Hokies, one of its ugliest outings in a generally unsightly year.
“We’re not very lucky…” Friedgen bemoaned. “I’m seeing plays I haven’t seen my whole coaching career.”
Inexperience was the Terps’ theme in September when it lost to Middle Tennessee and Rutgers. When the hobbled and infirm rapidly piled up in October, injuries were a culprit as Maryland sank deeper in the ACC standings.
Both were instructive in explaining away some (and perhaps much) of Maryland’s problems. Now, it would seem, old-fashioned poor fortune will be pointed to as the Terps (2-8, 1-5 ACC) navigate the final two weeks of a sputtering season.
“We keep talking about bad luck,” center Phil Costa said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to say it’s luck - bad luck or good luck. You make your own luck. I’m a firm believer in that. We’ve had some things go wrong this season, but I really believe it all comes out in the wash. I’m not going to blame it on that at all.”
He’s probably right, considering Maryland is anything but a statistical oddity when examined from a national standpoint:
• Of the 17 categories the NCAA tracks for the 120 major-college teams, Maryland ranks in triple digits in seven of them - punt returns, scoring defense, turnover margin, pass efficiency defense, total offense and sacks allowed.
• In three categories, the Terps are 98th or 99th: scoring offense, pass efficiency and pass defense.
• Maryland ranks in the top half of the nation in three categories - sacks, kickoff returns and net punting. In none of them are the Terps among the top 30.
There are flaws in every phase, and it’s a recipe for catastrophe against the generally talented and well-coached outfits populating the top 25 like Virginia Tech. The Terps have lost all four meetings since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004, and rarely have the teams seemed further apart than Saturday.
“There is a gap right now,” Friedgen said. “One of the things that I’m hoping will close it is when some of our younger guys mature and grow up.”
It’s a mantra Friedgen established from the early days of camp and maintained throughout a trying season. Maryland already has lost five straight for the first time since 1998, and two more losses to close out the year would leave the Terps with a 10-loss season for the first time in school history.
The on-field maturation remains slow, though Friedgen remains encouraged with effort even after enduring Saturday’s pounding.
“There’s days that they motivate me,” Friedgen said. “I’m trying to run the gamut to try to motivate them, to see each and every week. I’m waiting for it to collapse. I really am. How much longer can you do this?”
At this stage, the Terps need to do it for only two more weeks before the offseason arrives and inexperience, injuries and, yes, even luck are all washed away.
“We work hard every day,” Robinson said. “At some point, it’ll work out for us.”
Notes - Friedgen said quarterback Chris Turner (sprained left knee ligament) could return for the final game. …
Tailback Da’Rel Scott “right now is a go” in his return from a broken left radius. Scott has missed the last five games. …
Friedgen said punter Travis Baltz (broken finger) will undergo season-ending surgery Thursday. …
The Terps’ visit to Florida State (5-5, 3-4) on Saturday will start at noon, and Raycom will televise the game. The time for Maryland’s Nov. 28 finale against Boston College will be announced Monday.