- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Maryland’s long-shot hopes for a bowl bid and winning season ended with the worst loss in coach Ralph Friedgen’s four seasons.

No. 15 Virginia Tech maintained its grip on the ACC lead with a 55-6 victory over Maryland last night at Lane Stadium. The 49-point loss was Maryland’s largest since a 59-7 trouncing by Florida State in 2000.

“We turned the ball over way too many times,” Friedgen said. “They’re one of the better teams we’ve played.”

Maryland (4-6, 2-5 ACC) ends its season against Wake Forest (4-5, 1-5) at Byrd Stadium on Nov.27. Virginia Tech (8-2, 5-1) can clinch a tie for first place in its first ACC season by beating Virginia (7-2, 4-2) the same day. The Hokies can win the title outright by also defeating Miami (7-2, 4-2) on Dec.4.

Last night’s lopsided result even tested the old friendship between Friedgen and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. After the Hokies called a timeout with six seconds remaining in the first half to kick a field goal while leading 38-3, Friedgen countered with two consecutive timeouts of his own that revealed Friedgen’s frustration after the four early turnovers that sealed Maryland’s fate.

During an interview with ESPN while leaving the field at halftime, Friedgen uttered an obscenity when asked whether interceptions were troubling the Terps. Friedgen apologized during postgame remarks. No sanctions are expected by university officials.

“I wasn’t aware I did that,” Friedgen said. “I was really distraught. It’s not an excuse. I apologize. I don’t even remember doing it.”

Maryland’s ongoing quarterback woes reached new depths. Backup quarterback Jordan Steffy was taken to a local hospital after suffering an apparent concussion late in the first half when he hit Hokies linebacker James Anderson with his helmet during the latter’s interception.

Quarterback Joel Statham briefly returned after being benched following two first-quarter interceptions. The Terps didn’t bring third-string quarterback Ryan Mitch on the trip with Friedgen declining to explain why. Fourth-stringer Sam Hollenbach played the fourth quarter after Statham’s third interception for a touchdown and may start against Wake Forest.

“I was impressed with Sam Hollenbach,” Friedgen said. “He showed me a lot.”

Maryland’s defense was shredded regularly for the first time this season. The Hokies secured superb field position through turnovers and special teams while the Terps’ defense couldn’t stop Virginia Tech’s balanced attack. Maryland’s starters hadn’t permitted more than 17 points in a game, but the Hokies led 21-3 by the end of the first quarter.

Virginia Tech intercepted Statham’s third pass of the game after tipping the first and dropping a potential pick on the second. Running back Mike Imoh then carried five straight times, capping the drive with a 1-yard plunge for a 7-0 lead.

Terps receiver Derrick Fenner fumbled on Maryland’s next snap, giving the ball back to the Hokies. Three plays later, Imoh scored on a 6-yard run for a 14-0 advantage just four minutes into the game.

Maryland showed some spark late in the first quarter behind running back Mario Merrills, who carried for the first time in six games. However, the Terps stalled at the Hokies 14 before settling for kicker Nick Novak’s 42-yard field goal.

But Virginia Tech quickly put away Maryland on its next two drives. Hokies tight end Jeff King scored on a 35-yard pass when two Terps linebackers were confused over coverage. Then Virginia Tech picked off Statham again at Maryland’s 23 to set up running back Justin Hamilton’s 5-yard touchdown for a 28-3 lead just four seconds into the second quarter.

Virginia Tech then proved it also could mount a long drive, going 74 yards on 12 plays before a field goal made it 31-3 with 4:47 remaining before halftime. Another Terps defensive meltdown permitted an easy touchdown pass, and the Hokies added a field goal right before halftime for a 41-3 lead.

The anticlimactic second half proved more defensively oriented. Virginia Tech needed 10 minutes before Bryan Randall scored on a 1-yard run. Hokies cornerback Jimmy Williams’ 34-yard touchdown interception made it 55-3.

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