- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2005

Maryland didn’t impress coach Ralph Friedgen in the hour leading up to yesterday’s meeting with West Virginia. What he saw during the game was just as frustrating.

West Virginia throttled the Terrapins at the line of scrimmage in a 31-19 victory before 52,413 at Byrd Stadium, a result that left Maryland scurrying to determine why it was so flat a week after a deflating home loss to Clemson.

“Why wouldn’t you be up to play this game?” Friedgen asked after his team fell to 1-2. “I got after them in pregame. I didn’t think we were warming up right. Guys were going offside, missing assignments, blocking the wrong people. I knew how West Virginia was going to be; they were going to be ready to play.”

The Mountaineers (3-0) certainly were, rushing for 301 yards as they earned their first victory in College Park since 1997. By the fourth quarter, West Virginia had worn down the Terps defense and almost effortlessly marched to a game-clinching touchdown just after Maryland scored on consecutive possessions.

West Virginia’s control of the ground — including 217 yards rushing in the second half — produced a startling feeling for the Terps, who have relied on their defense to dictate games during Friedgen’s four-plus seasons. It was only the second time in Friedgen’s tenure a team ran for more than 300 yards against the Terps.

“The front seven, we just couldn’t win up front,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “They pounded the ball down our throats. There’s nothing to say to that. We have to come back from that. In my years here, we’ve never been a team to give up points like that or just have teams run the ball when we know they’re going to run the ball and be successful.”

Meanwhile, the Terps managed 50 yards rushing against a West Virginia team that usually put at least one extra player in the box. Coupled with the Terps’ 56-yard effort on the ground last week against Clemson, yesterday’s struggles raise questions about their ability to establish a running game.

“We’re not getting off blocks up front,” Friedgen said. “That used to be one of our trademarks. We used to be able to control the line of scrimmage, and we’re not doing that right now.”

Maryland trailed 7-6 when it knocked Mountaineers quarterback Adam Bednarik out of the game with an injury late in the third quarter. Freshman Pat White, Bednarik’s replacement, immediately engineered a long touchdown drive extended when a Maryland offsides penalty nullified a punt and gave West Virginia a first down.

Fullback Owen Schmitt scored the touchdown to cap that drive, then rammed through the Terps’ defense for runs of 19 and 34 yards on the Mountaineers’ next possession to set up Pernell Williams’ 1-yard touchdown run.

Many fans departed at that point, figuring an offense that hadn’t scored a touchdown wouldn’t erase a 21-6 deficit. But forced to turn to their two-minute offense, the Terps thrived. Quarterback Sam Hollenbach zipped a pass over the middle to tight end Vernon Davis, who dodged cornerback Anthony Mims and then darted down the right sideline for a 73-yard touchdown.

It was the highlight of a 158-yard game for Davis, who became the first Terp to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving days since Jermaine Lewis in 1995.

Maryland recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and Hollenbach connected with wideout Jo Jo Walker for a 12-yard score five plays later. However, Hollenbach overthrew Walker on the two-point conversion to leave the Terps behind 21-19.

When the Mountaineers finally regained possession, they quelled the Terps’ rally by relying exclusively on the run. The seven-play drive ended on freshman Jason Gwaltney’s 15-yard rumble with 4:56 left.

“Guys were winded, but that’s the game,” Jackson said. “You’re used to playing when you’re tired. … Everybody out there is tired, the defense and the offense. We couldn’t get it done.”

The Terps’ hopes all but ended when Hollenbach fumbled on a scramble to end Maryland’s next possession. Friedgen planned to get the junior more involved in the running game, but Hollenbach seemed tentative when he ran the option. He fumbled four times, though he lost only one.

“We had too many drives where they ended because of mistakes on our behalf,” said Hollenbach, who completed 20 of 31 passes for 291 yards. “You can’t win like that.”

The back-to-back home losses could haunt the Terps, who have only three games remaining at Byrd this season. Maryland has been known to stumble to slow starts under Friedgen — the Terps’ bowl-winning teams of 2002 and 2003 both dropped two of their first three.

Those teams were more experienced than this year’s squad, but Friedgen is counting on his team to grow up after two frustrating losses.

“If you think I’m sitting here thinking about losing more games, you’re crazy,” Friedgen said. “I don’t think that way.”

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