- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach has shown he can help Maryland with his arm. Now the Terrapins just hope the junior can become more dangerous with his legs.

Hollenbach already has stabilized a passing game that was much maligned last season. Yet as the Terps (1-1) prepare for Saturday’s meeting with West Virginia (2-0) at Byrd Stadium, Hollenbach could be a player Maryland relies on to bolster a rushing attack that sputtered miserably in last week’s 28-24 loss to Clemson.

“Right now he’s a guy that looks to throw first and run second,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “But there are opportunities when a pattern or a protection breaks down that he could scramble and he has enough speed that he would hurt defenses. When he gets that in his game, he’s really going to be difficult to defend.”

Hollenbach has excelled in the passing game, completing nearly 64 percent for 505 yards. He also led a late drive to rally the Terps past Navy in the season opener.

However, he hasn’t been much of a surprise rushing threat in the Terps’ first two games. Of his seven rushing attempts that didn’t result in a sack, all but one was in a short-yardage or goal-to-go situation. That was a 13-yard scamper against Navy, his only rush for more than 2 yards this season.

“Sometimes I feel like an alarm already went off and I’m still holding the ball,” said Hollenbach, whose 40-yard dash time is around 4.7 seconds. “As a quarterback, you kind of have an internal clock. Sometimes you don’t have the right look on defense. If a play’s covered up, when that happens I have to pull it and be decisive and make positive yardage.”

Interestingly, Hollenbach hasn’t been placed in that situation much, mostly because of his progression as a passer.

“There would be times last year and even this year early in camp where he would get stuck with the ball,” Friedgen said. “He either missed his key or everyone was covered, and he’d sit there and keep pumping the ball. That’s when he’s got to learn to take off and run. But one of the things that’s happened is, he’s been making such good decisions and such quick decisions that he hasn’t had to do that a whole lot.”

The Terps’ difficulties on the ground against Clemson probably have made Friedgen more eager to develop Hollenbach’s rushing skills. Maryland gained 56 yards rushing in 38 attempts, and starting tailback Mario Merrills managed a meager 21 yards on 15 carries a week after a 149-yard performance against Navy.

Some of the struggles were as much bad luck as anything else, and the return of fullback Tim Cesa (mononucleosis) on Saturday should provide some blocking help.

An inexperienced line is also part of the equation, though Friedgen knows his young players are bound to have lapses. Having a quarterback who can bolt past a defensive lineman might take away some of that pressure.

“I feel fine with that,” Hollenbach said. “If that’s something [Friedgen] thinks I can do, I feel comfortable with it. … It just helps keep the defense honest so they don’t drop way out there. If that’s the only thing that it’s good for, then that’s still something and that’s something I need to work on and get better at.”

Note — The Nassau (N.Y.) County Sports Commission, which awards the John Mackey Award to the nation’s top tight end at the end of the season, selected Vernon Davis national tight end of the week. Davis had six catches for 140 yards and a touchdown against Clemson.

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