- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

CLEMSON, S.C. — Sam Hollenbach had faced the scenario hundreds of times in practice in the last five years, the ultimate exam for a quarterback. It was a two-minute drill, and he needed an efficient performance to deliver a stunning result.

He aced the test, and along with him so did the rest of his Maryland teammates.

Dan Ennis’ 31-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Terrapins to a 13-12 victory at No. 19 Clemson at Memorial Stadium, capping arguably Maryland’s most complete performance since it was a postseason regular in coach Ralph Friedgen’s first three seasons.

The Terps’ first road victory over a ranked team since a win at Georgia Tech in 2001 all but secured a return to those days. And it came in similar fashion to that pivotal night in Atlanta, when a field goal on the final play hurtled the Terps toward a conference title.

After yesterday, it appears Maryland (7-2, 4-1 ACC) is following a copy of the exact same script.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so excited and so happy,” Friedgen said. “You can see them growing from a team that was not the most confident bunch in the world to believing they have a chance to be pretty good. Days like this makes all the hard work feel all right.”

The hardest work came in the final two minutes, when the Terps faced a 12-10 deficit. Hollenbach completed three passes early in the drive, then extended the possession with a 5-yard sneak outside on a fourth down while losing a shoe in the process. On the next play, he delivered a perfectly threaded 13-yard bullet to Isaiah Williams to move into field goal range.

Seconds later, he zipped a 12-yard pass to Joey Haynos and then ran it himself into the middle of the field. About the only thing that didn’t go his way was a dawdling referee, who dallied in preventing from to spike it before finally relenting with three seconds left.

“I was just frustrated because the ref wasn’t moving off the ball,” said Hollenbach, who was 5-for-5 for 47 yards on the final drive. “It seemed like he was waiting forever, so I was watching that clock and he would not move.”

With time finally halted, Ennis came out to attempt perhaps the biggest attempt of his career. When it sailed through, an amoebic pile quickly swarmed over him to celebrate Maryland remaining tied for the Atlantic Division lead and winning in Death Valley for only the second time in 11 tries.

“Everyone was on top of me,” Ennis said. “At the end there, I didn’t know if I could breathe there. It happened real fast. Next thing I know, I’m on the ground below 300,000 pounds of man.”

The banged-up Terps were without fullback Tim Cesa, who didn’t make the trip after he was knocked from the Oct. 28 victory over Florida State during the first series with an undisclosed injury. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (pulled hamstring) and tackle Stephon Heyer (knee) played through injuries, while tackle Jared Gaither and reserve linebacker Rick Costa were also hurting.

Nevertheless, they led for much of the game, going ahead on Hollenbach’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Danny Oquendo in the flat on a third down to open the second quarter and adding an Ennis field goal after a 57-yard pass from Hollenbach to Jason Goode.

Both plays were indicative of a new-found emphasis on the passing game. Hollenbach completed 23 of 34 passes for a season-high 247 yards, while the Terps ran for only 54 yards — matching the 2004 Florida State game for fewest yards rushing in a victory under Friedgen.

“It seems like our game plan every week is go to be that, but you don’t know it’s going to be until you get into a game and get into a rhythm,” Hollenbach said. “We had to go with what worked.”

The defense was especially effective, containing the explosive Tigers to four field goals, the latter of which nearly didn’t happen. Linebacker Erin Henderson drilled Clemson’s Will Proctor to force a fumble early in the fourth quarter, and officials signaled a safety after C.J. Spiller landed on the ball in the end zone for what appeared a 12-9 Maryland lead.

A booth review gave Clemson possession inches from the goal line, and Maryland’s Dre Moore nearly wrapped up C.J. Spiller in the end zone on the next play. But Proctor found tight end Thomas Hunter open for a 71-yard pass on third down to energize the Tigers (7-3, 4-3).

Maryland was undaunted even as Clemson inched closer to a touchdown. The Terps handled the Tigers inside the 10, forcing Jad Dean to kick his fourth field goal with 2:25 left.

“We could have just laid down right there, but we bowed up again,” defensive end Jeremy Navarre said. “That was a huge statement right there.”

So was the final score, which all but secured a bowl berth in front of a plethora of postseason scouts and kept Maryland in the ACC title chase. With a visit from Miami and meetings with fellow Atlantic Division contenders Boston College and Wake Forest still to come, a trip to the ACC championship game remains a possibility.

“I just told them the first round of the playoffs, you just won,” Friedgen said. “You have three more rounds to go and then if you win those three, you go to the Super Bowl. Then you get to go to a bowl after that.”

It’s a long way from a blowout loss at West Virginia in the season’s third week, a miserable result that appeared to signify Maryland was in for a third straight lackluster season.

Instead, the Terps were consigned to nothing and have since gone 5-1 in six games decided by a total of 20 points to open up possibilities that were unfathomable less than two months ago.

“Everybody’s like ‘We can do it,’ ” Navarre said of the postgame locker room celebration. “Maryland’s back.”

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