- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

It’s a simple formula, really, one no doubt taught in the figurative Football 101 lecture Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen referenced yesterday: Don’t turn the ball over, convert opponents’ miscues into points and victory likely will follow.

Friedgen’s Terrapins could not heed that Sun Tzu-esque message yesterday at Byrd Stadium, watching as No.23 Boston College scored two defensive touchdowns in a 31-16 victory that denied Maryland its chance to clinch a winning season and bowl eligibility in its home finale.

“We just didn’t play well,” Friedgen said. “Maybe we played against a team that’s better than us.”

For its part, Maryland managed seven points off four Boston College turnovers and a blocked punt, an anemic performance that leaves the Terps (5-5, 3-4 ACC) needing to win Saturday at N.C. State if they are even to reach the postseason.

“They whupped our butts. They took advantage of their opportunities,” safety Milton Harris said. “But I definitely think if we had taken advantage of our opportunities, the game could have gone either way.”

It’s a refrain common to all but one of the Terps’ losses but especially true yesterday. Maryland still was within a possession deep into the fourth quarter, even after Ryan Ohliger kicked a 27-yard field goal for Boston College (8-3, 5-3) with 4:56 left to make it 24-16.

Two plays into the next possession, Boston College’s Ray Henderson intercepted quarterback Sam Hollenbach and returned it 35 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.

It was Hollenbach’s third turnover of the day and the second brought back for a score. In the first quarter, the Eagles’ Jolonn Dunbar scooped up Hollenbach’s fumble and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown.

Hollenbach, who had thrown an interception in the red zone in the first half, was even yanked for backup Joel Statham after the late pick. Statham, though, was intercepted on the first play and promptly went back to the bench.

“I just felt like somebody else needed to try,” Friedgen said. “I was kind of looking for everything. It didn’t take me long to figure that wasn’t the answer.”

It was Hollenbach’s second straight erratic outing. In the Terps’ overtime victory at North Carolina on Nov.12, the Tar Heels returned one interception for a touchdown and another inside the Maryland 10. Yesterday was a rerun of those mistakes, only without the two long touchdown passes Hollenbach tossed as the Terps rallied past Carolina.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world right now …” Hollenbach said. “We gave them 14 points on my turnovers. It’s tough to beat teams, whoever you’re playing, when that happens. It’s something we have to eliminate and I have to eliminate.”

There were issues other than Hollenbach’s miscues in play against the Eagles, namely Maryland’s perpetual inability to convert scoring opportunities. The Terps’ six red zone trips yielded 16 points, a figure consistent with the team’s struggles all season.

Especially frustrating was the failure to capitalize on Boston College’s errors. Maryland took over in Eagles territory three times in the first half but still trailed 14-10 at halftime.

“We had great field position, and we have to come out of there with points, and we didn’t do that,” Friedgen said. “That would have probably evened everything out.”

Boston College also ran for 221 yards, including 160 in the second half, in what had to provoke some deja vu among the Terps, who well remember similar efforts against them earlier in the season.

Maryland is perilously close to missing the postseason for the second straight season, something that seemed unlikely when it was rattling off 10-win seasons in Friedgen’s first three years. The Terps will face a 5-5 N.C. State team in an identical situation, though the Wolfpack have won three of their last four rather than the reverse.

The Terps could have done the same if they had closed out Florida State three weeks ago and then graciously accepted the points Boston College all but gave them yesterday. Had they done so, the hovering bowl-related questions would involve “where” as opposed to “if,” and the season finale would not be prompting questions about the state of the program.

“When you win, you get in the habit of winning. When you lose, you get in a habit of losing,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “It’s something you have to catch, and once you get a win, you have to roll with it and stay at it and keep punching at it. …

“This would have erased last year and the games we should have won this year. It is what it is. We had opportunities. The game just changed so fast we didn’t know what to do.”

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