- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 25, 2005

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — There were no late-game meltdowns yesterday for Maryland’s defense.

With a fired-up front seven swarming Wake Forest’s vaunted running backs, the Terrapins football team shrugged off a pair of recent fourth-quarter collapses to upend the Demon Deacons 22-12 before 26,022 at Groves Stadium.

It was the seventh straight victory for the Terps (2-2, 1-1 ACC) against Wake Forest (1-3, 0-1), and it came just a week after Maryland surrendered 301 yards rushing in a loss to West Virginia.

“We just wanted to show everyone what type of defense we really are — a defense that didn’t give up in the fourth quarter or break down,” said safety Milton Harris, who forced two fumbles, including one that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Josh Wilson. “Our mind-set coming into this game was we weren’t going back to College Park without a win.”

The win revived the Terps’ postseason hopes and probably infused some confidence in the young team, which had lost back-to-back home games to Clemson and West Virginia.

Most of the credit goes to the defense, which limited the Demon Deacons to a season-low 111 yards. Wake running back Chris Barclay had 86 yards and a touchdown, but Micah Andrews (23 yards) was held 130 yards below his season average.

“Everybody made such a big deal about them being the top rushing team in the [conference] and that we couldn’t stop the rush,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I didn’t have to do a whole lot. You all did it.”

In addition to their suddenly stout play against the run, the Terps also forced the Deacons into some critical first-half blunders. Wake appeared to have taken the lead when Ben Mauk found Chris Davis for a 73-yard touchdown pass, but wideout Cory Randolph’s holding penalty nullified the score.

On the next play, Harris forced a fumble that Wilson scooped up before scampering 20 yards for a touchdown to boost Maryland’s lead to 10-0.

Wake needed only two more plays before Davis fumbled a reverse pitch from Barclay. Maryland’s Conrad Bolston recovered, and kicker Dan Ennis delivered a 37-yard field goal four plays later. It was one of three field goals for Ennis, who improved to 9-for-9 this season.

The game, at times unsightly and generally dull, occasionally devolved into an impressive punting battle. Maryland’s Adam Podlesh averaged 49.7 yards on six punts, while Wake’s Ryan Plackemeier had a 47.4-yard average in eight tries.

“I don’t know who’s better than those two guys,” Friedgen said. “It was like dueling punters. Both of them hit it like it came out of a machine.”

Maryland’s so-so day on offense helped keep Podlesh busy. Quarterback Sam Hollenbach was merely pedestrian after throwing for 49 yards the Terps’ first drive, finishing with a season-low 169 yards and an interception.

The Terps’ rushing attack was more effective than the last two weeks, managing 162 yards. Sophomore tailback Keon Lattimore, limited to one carry a week earlier against West Virginia, gained 76 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to give Maryland a 22-10 lead.

That score gave Maryland some insurance minutes after Wake’s lone touchdown drive. The Terps, who had led 16-3, were poised to force the Demon Deacons to punt before safety Christian Varner was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Wake’s Nate Morton after the wideout ran out of bounds. Three plays later, Barclay bounced off a would-be tackler and into the end zone from 4 yards out to help the Deacons close within 16-10.

However, Maryland’s lead probably should have been much bigger at that point. The Terps made five trips inside the Wake 20, but came away with just one touchdown, three field goals and a turnover.

“Our red zone has to get better,” Hollenbach said. “Especially 10 and in, we have to get touchdowns out of those.”

Still, the Terps turned in a defensive performance reminiscent of some of Friedgen’s earlier teams, not the squad that collapsed in the final 10 minutes the last two weeks. Maryland surrendered only 61 yards in the fourth quarter, nearly all after the Demon Deacons fell behind by two possessions and mostly abandoned the run.

“This week we just focused on playing 60 minutes,” Wilson said. “We knew when it got to eight minutes we were going to get back on that field and win this game. There was no doubt. If we had to give an all-out effort and die on the field, we were going to win this game.”

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