- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 28, 2004

Maryland’s 2005 quarterback debate added another candidate yesterday. That is, if he returns.

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach passed for 164 yards in his first career start as the Terrapins ended a disappointing season with a 13-7 victory over Wake Forest before 48,226 at Byrd Stadium.

With starter Joel Statham benched and backup Jordan Steffy injured, Hollenbach completed 16 of 27 passes. Coach Ralph Friedgen said the three will compete for the starting job when spring drills begin April 2, but Hollenbach said he’ll consider transferring. Hollenbach, who nearly left the team in August, will talk with coaches before deciding whether his chances of playing next year merit returning.

“I have a lot to think about right now and make a decision based on this,” Hollenbach said.

The Terps (5-6, 3-5 ACC), who avoided finishing tied for ninth in the conference with Wake Forest (4-7, 1-7), might have made a bowl game if not for a controversial pass interference call later ruled incorrect by ACC officials that proved crucial in a 10-7 loss at Clemson.

“We just didn’t get any breaks this year with injuries or calls or turnovers,” Friedgen said. “We have to come back and start all over again. This program is at a new beginning.”

The Terps’ 19 seniors ended their careers with their 36th victory in four seasons. Guard C.J. Brooks started a team-record 51st game. Steve Suter added two punt return yards to stretch his ACC career-best mark to 1,271. Kicker Nick Novak moved into fifth on the NCAA career scoring list (393 points) after converting 47- and 22-yard field goals. Running back Sam Maldonado gained 45 yards to finish as the Terps’ top rusher this season with 591 yards.

Friedgen’s 36 coaching victories are the most for an opening four-year stretch in ACC history, and players who have been with the Terps since the coach’s debut wanted to ensure they were remembered fondly. Six seniors spoke during a team meeting on Friday night and said they wanted to win for each other and for coaches who didn’t bench them in the final weeks.

“The guys didn’t want to walk off that field losers,” center Kyle Schmitt said. “The coaches didn’t give up on us this year. They could have started going with younger kids to build for next year.”

Junior linebacker Shawne Merriman, who may forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft, picked up 2 sacks to finish with 8 for the season. Merriman’s 22 career sacks trail only Mike Corvino’s 24.

“He was just everywhere out there,” Friedgen said.

There were some serious injuries, though. Junior running back Josh Allen suffered two torn ligaments in his left knee and will require surgery and offseason rehabilitation. Defensive end Henry Scott, who finally earned a scholarship as a senior after working two jobs to pay for his first three seasons, tore a knee ligament in his final game.

“I was devastated when Henry went down,” Merriman said. “He’s one of those hardbodies that plays through everything.”

Maryland needed big breaks to survive two late Wake Forest drives. Terps safety Chris Kelley forced Demon Deacons receiver Kevin Marion to fumble at Maryland’s 1-yard line, where cornerback Domonique Foxworth made the recovery. The Terps later benefited from a bobbled pass by Wake Forest tight end Joey Haynos at the goal line.

“I think [the fumble] was the turning point and Chris Kelley deserves all the credit,” Foxworth said.

Said Merriman: “Out of the whole season with the ball not bouncing our way or penalties called that shouldn’t have been called, something went right for us.”

Hollenbach’s steady start helped instill confidence in teammates unsure whether someone with nine career passing attempts could revive an offense that scored 56 points in its final seven games. While Hollenbach sometimes held the ball too long, he also countered with enough plays to keep Wake Forest from blitzing regularly.

“I was really proud of Sam,” Friedgen said. “He played with composure and poise. He was very calm. The early start helped his confidence for the rest of the game. Who knows where this will take him?”

Said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe: “He made a couple of really nice throws early that got us on our heels a little bit.”

Maryland led 13-0 at halftime. Allen gave it a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard touchdown run. Novak converted a 22-yarder for a 10-0 edge with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter. The Terps then worked the clock after regaining possession with 42 seconds left, moving 45 yards to set up Novak’s 47-yarder as time expired.

Wake Forest needed a freak special teams turnover to score after it was blanked in the first half for the first time in 16 games. The Demon Deacons recovered a punt that hit Terps safety J.J. Justice’s foot at Maryland’s 28. Five plays later, running back Chris Barclay scored on a 5-yard run to close within 13-7 with 9:13 remaining in the third quarter.

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