- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — It hasn’t been long since the halcyon days of Maryland’s football renaissance under coach Ralph Friedgen, and it’s easy to rattle off the Terrapins’ three-year outburst after more than a decade as an ACC doormat.

There were the three straight seasons with double-figure victories, three trips to bowl games for a program that was starving for a taste of the postseason and a stunning conference championship in Friedgen’s first season.

Yet a fortnight before the Terps open camp to prepare for the Sept. 2 opener against William & Mary, the constant reminders of the program’s recent glory have worn thin for a veteran group that has endured consecutive 5-6 seasons since going 10-3 in 2003.

“I’m sick of hearing about 2003, sick about hearing about 10-win seasons,” quarterback Sam Hollenbach said yesterday at the ACC’s football kickoff event. “That’s what we’re trying to do, and we’re trying to get back to that success. But we’re a different team. We’re not the same as we were before. It’s a completely different structure. We just want to be able to have our own success and just really feel comfortable with the way the season’s going.”

Certainly the misery of finishing up the season around Thanksgiving rather than New Year’s Day has contributed to the Terps’ desire to re-establish themselves as a conference contender. But there is also external pessimism about the program that is stunning to veterans who first came to College Park during the good times.

That’s particularly true of cornerback Josh Wilson, who recalls the Terps enduring only one blowout in the last two years. Last season, Maryland was within at least a touchdown in the fourth quarter in all but one of its losses, but it frittered away countless opportunities on a seemingly weekly basis late in the season and slumped to a 1-4 finish.

The latter is remembered after losing seasons, but Maryland’s proclivity to play teams close the last two years suggests it should at least contend for a bowl berth this fall with a more experienced bunch.

“Everybody wants to talk about how we’re going down, how it’s a down year,” Wilson said. “Everybody has something negative to say. When we were winning, it was always optimistic — ‘Are you going to go undefeated?’ After the Gator Bowl [in 2003], it was all positive. Now, it’s more ‘Can you win six games?’ Yeah, we can win six games. We could have won six games the last two years.”

Whether the Terps do will depend heavily on Hollenbach’s play. The senior is entering his fifth season in Maryland’s offense and his second as a starter, and it will be the first time the Terps will have an experienced quarterback atop the depth chart since — yes, that’s right — 2003.

Hollenbach threw 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last fall, but a separated collarbone hindered him in the final month of the season. The injury to his non-throwing shoulder is fully healed, and he threw 30 passes of more than 50 yards in a workout last week.

Hollenbach also put in his usual time watching video this summer, and he logged plenty of hours viewing the 2003 team, which had something on its side that has evaded the Terps the last two years — good fortune.

“If you see those games, they’re a great team, but there’s a lot of lucky plays,” Hollenbach said. “You go through a season in the ACC, and you need certain breaks to happen to be successful. We need to have some of those this year to be successful.”

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