- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

Maryland walked out of Doak Campbell Stadium dazed on Saturday night, unable to fully apprehend how a potential win against Florida State turned into a 35-27 loss.

The Terrapins will have plenty of time to ponder it in the next two weeks, and their response will define a season that has hurtled between potential and unmet expectations, upset possibilities and late-game collapses, and patient acceptance of youth and a desire for oft-taught lessons to finally sink in, sometimes in a matter of minutes.

“In hindsight, realistically, we’re growing, but it’s like raising children,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday. “Sometimes it’s hard to deal with some of the growing pains we’re having when we’re getting losses instead of wins. That’s what’s frustrating. It’s probably bothering the kids, too. This team works hard and is deserving of a better record than it has right now.”

Saying it does not make it so, however, and the Terps (4-4, 2-3 ACC) still must earn their way into the postseason. They visit North Carolina (3-4, 2-2), a team that beat Virginia and was a nuisance to Miami and Wisconsin, on Nov. 12 before playing host to No. 19 Boston College (6-2, 3-2) the following week. The regular season finale is Nov. 26 at struggling N.C. State (3-4, 1-4).

There are no top-10 foes remaining, a relief for a team that just played two elite programs in 10 days. And while the 12-team ACC has only six postseason berths, attrition might considerably narrow the conference’s bowl-bound brigade. Half of the league is within a game of .500, and it is plausible a horde of teams could finish either 4-7 or 5-6 and leave only five schools eligible for the postseason.

“The way the ACC is, it could have trouble getting more than six teams qualified for a bowl,” Friedgen said. “We’re all about .500 except for the top four. Whoever finishes the strongest gets a chance to go to a bowl game.”

That’s a message Maryland players will consider for almost two weeks. The Terps will get a couple days off this week before returning to practice Thursday and Friday, then take two more days off before resuming a normal practice schedule next Monday. Friedgen hopes his team can then get re-accustomed to the routine it had the first six weeks of the season. The regimen was changed during a stretch that included two byes and a Thursday night game.

Still, a familiar schedule won’t wipe out the disappointment of blowing a 10-point, second-half lead to the Seminoles. Maryland never has won at Florida State, and a victory in Tallahassee would have produced a decidedly different tone for the next two weeks.

“I think everyone is shock,” junior kicker Dan Ennis said Saturday. “I think everyone is wondering what happened. Everyone’s asking why, what could we have done more.”

The Terps will be better served if they look ahead to the next month, when starting quarterback Sam Hollenbach likely will be available. The junior, who sprained his left shoulder Oct. 20, played only two series against Florida State in relief of Joel Statham before leaving with what team doctors believe is a back muscle injury.

“We’re going to X-ray him [today] to make sure he didn’t chip his spine or any vertebrae,” Friedgen said. “We’re hoping he’s ready to go on Thursday. I think he needs a lot of the timing work because he’s been out so long.”

Notes — Friedgen said safety Milton Harris (concussion) probably would not practice this week or have any contact in practice before the North Carolina game. … Wideout Derrick Fenner suffered a bruised thigh against Florida State, an injury Friedgen said could limit the senior for a while. … Statham took a shot to the back on the Terps’ final offensive play, but Friedgen said he’ll probably be available against North Carolina. … Redshirt freshman linebacker Rick Costa underwent shoulder surgery after aggravating an old injury in practice and will be out six months, including spring practice. … Friedgen said redshirt freshman kicker Obi Egekeze (quadriceps) probably will return this week.

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