- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Coach Ralph Friedgen usually calls the plays for the Maryland Terrapins, but he yields those decisions to quarterback Sam Hollenbach to save time when the Terps resort to a no-huddle offense.

Hollenbach’s decision-making was perfect late in Saturday’s 13-12 victory at Clemson: He completed all five of his attempts for 47 yards in the Terps’ final drive to set up a Dan Ennis field goal that clinched Maryland’s fourth straight win.

Not surprisingly, the exercise appeals to the cerebral Hollenbach, a mechanical engineering major.

“He lets me have control of the game,” Hollenbach said. “I like doing it. It comes with experience. I remember trying to do this my first and second years here, and you have no idea what’s going on. Each time you do it, you get better at it.”

The senior’s improvement in several areas has boosted No. 23 Maryland (7-2, 4-1 ACC) into a share of the Atlantic Division lead with Wake Forest entering a meeting with Miami (5-4, 2-3), which could be without starting quarterback Kyle Wright (fractured thumb) on Saturday.

During the Terps’ winning streak, Hollenbach completed 59 of 91 attempts for 664 yards and five touchdowns. He also tossed only two interceptions, the fewest over a four-game stretch in his career.

“I think the game’s slowing down for him, and I think he’s turned into a pretty good quarterback right now,” Friedgen said. “He has some limitations, but he has some strengths, too. What we have to do is play to his strengths. Don’t put him in situations where his weaknesses are.”

The two-minute offense requires a quarterback to assess several factors quickly, including down and distance and an opponent’s defensive scheme, before deciding on a play. Yet Hollenbach said the rapid pace keeps both the offensive line and the wide receivers in a rhythm during a crucial part of a game.

“I know some people have just said, ‘You guys should just do that in the middle of the game,’ and that would be fine with me,” Hollenbach said.

Catching up

Friedgen said senior receiver Drew Weatherly, who has missed all but two games and caught only one pass because of a lingering right foot injury, practiced Monday and could return against Miami.

Weatherly’s return would bolster a wideout corps limited to sophomores Danny Oquendo and Isaiah Williams and redshirt freshman Darrius Heyward-Bey for much of the season.

“We have three guys, and that’s about what we’ve got,” Friedgen said. “You have to make the most of what you got, and I’m trying to do that and squeeze every ounce out of that we can get.”

All three wideouts — they entered the season with a combined four career receptions — have caught at least 20 passes this season. Williams enjoyed his best game against Clemson, establishing career highs in catches (five) and yards (66) in the victory while continuing his accelerated maturation process.

“It definitely puts an onus on us,” Williams said. “We realize every game we play we’re probably going to be in there for 60, 70 snaps a game. For this to be our first year of actually starting, it’s a big burden to put on us.”

The receivers have thrived when called upon, though it hasn’t always been necessary in Maryland’s run-heavy scheme. Still, the three have responded to the bevy of preseason worries concerning their ability to contribute this year.

“We knew what our role was going to be from the beginning, and I think we’ve answered that bell since the start of the season,” Oquendo said.

Paging Darwin

With less than a month remaining in the regular season, questions have generally subsided about Friedgen’s decision to serve as his own offensive coordinator this season.

Still, the topic occasionally comes up, particularly in how Friedgen’s play-calling has changed since the start of the season.

“I think I’m done evolving,” Friedgen said. “I’ve been doing this for 18 years. It is what it is.”

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