- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

In the second half of yesterday’s game against Virginia, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen implored his offensive line to help ensure the Terrapins scored on every possession.

The Terrapins very nearly did.

Instead, Maryland simply turned in its most complete offensive performance of the season, rolling past the 19th-ranked Cavaliers 45-33, improving its postseason chances in front of 52,656, the sixth-largest crowd in Byrd Stadium history.

It was a game filled with career days for the Terps (3-2, 2-1 ACC), who won their second straight and first in three tries at home this season. Tailback Lance Ball had a career-best 163 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Danny Melendez set career highs in receptions (nine) and yards (125).

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach led the Terps to scores on seven of the last nine drives that didn’t end in a kneel-down. The junior threw for two touchdowns and a career-high 320 yards as Maryland looked more like the explosive juggernauts Friedgen coached in his first three years in College Park than the flawed teams that struggled last year and earlier this season to achieve any sort of balance.

“It felt like old times,” Friedgen said.

Those times included three postseason trips, and Maryland pushed itself much closer to a bowl berth with the victory over the Cavaliers (3-1, 1-1). After next week’s visit to winless Temple, the Terps face a difficult closing stretch that includes Virginia Tech, Florida State and Boston College.

A loss yesterday would have limited the Terps’ margin for error the rest of the way. Instead, the youthful Terps believe they picked up some momentum by defeating a ranked team for the first time this season.

“I don’t think it could have been any more important,” Hollenbach said. “We’re going into a tough second half of the season. We have a couple of tough games coming up, and we needed this one just for a confidence builder.”

Wearing black jerseys for the first time since the late 1990s, Maryland rolled up 570 yards of total offense, its most in more than a year. It also was the most yardage surrendered by Virginia in coach Al Groh’s five seasons.

Maryland did much of its damage in the fourth quarter after its only unsuccessful possession of the second half helped set up Connor Hughes’ fourth field goal, which put Virginia ahead 26-24. The Terps mixed up the offense on the next drive, using a 44-yard pass to senior Derrick Fenner and Hollenbach’s 13-yard keeper to set up Ball’s 14-yard touchdown scamper.

Virginia did little on its next possession, but it pinned the Terps on their 6 to start the next drive. It didn’t faze Hollenbach, who connected with Melendez to earn a pair of first downs before Ball scored untouched on a 35-yard run.

“The offense has great confidence,” said Ball, whose team was 7-for-11 on third down conversions. “We came into the second half saying ‘We can run on these guys. They can’t stop us.’ I believe we came out there and did our job.”

Maryland managed seven sacks against a depleted Virginia offensive line that was without injured left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, but the Terps still couldn’t entirely contain Cavaliers quarterback Marques Hagans. The senior threw for 270 yards and ran for 55 yards and two touchdowns to keep Virginia in the shootout.

Hagans’ second score pulled the Cavaliers within 38-33 with 5:27 left, but the Terps didn’t give him a chance to win it. Hollenbach found Melendez for a 24-yard gain down to the 1, setting up Keon Lattimore’s second touchdown run of the game with 1:50 left.

“I had to wipe some sweat off my brow because I was getting a little nervous there, but when they got inside the 1-yard line, I knew we had this one wrapped up,” cornerback Josh Wilson said.

After a slow start that included two Hollenbach interceptions (including one brought back for a touchdown), the Terps began to shred the vaunted Virginia defense. The Cavaliers had allowed only 91 yards rushing a game, but the Terps rolled past that total early in the second quarter en route to a 250-yard day on the ground. Hollenbach engineered a pair of drives of more than 80 yards as Maryland took a 21-20 lead at the half.

The totality of the performance prompted Friedgen to dismiss many critics of his team as “doomsayers.” Yet moments later, he conceded the Terps’ postseason chances probably hinged on claiming a homecoming victory over their border rivals.

“It was going to be tough for us if we didn’t win this game to really have a shot at it,” Friedgen said. “We were going to have to really play good. The fact we have this under our belt and we know we can play good against a good football team helps.”

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