- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2006

Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach stepped into a tunnel deep within Scott Stadium, an ice pack affixed to his left shoulder belying the senior’s happiness.

He was one of the final players to leave an elated locker room that was home to a protracted victory celebration after the Terrapins rallied from a 20-point deficit to defeat Virginia 28-26 on Saturday.

“There probably hadn’t been one like that in a couple of years,” Hollenbach said.

Now, Hollenbach and the Terps must figure out how to repeat the experience — the postgame party, not the halftime hole — a few more times in order to secure bowl eligibility.

It was quite the turnaround for Maryland (4-2, 1-1 ACC), which could create nothing against the previously punchless Cavaliers in the first half. And though it wasn’t the complete performance the Terps had been seeking, 30 excellent minutes delivered in harrowing fashion the same result 60 solid minutes probably would have produced.

“We made some mistakes and we played very hard, but we have to continue to improve,” coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday. “We are improving as a team, but we didn’t play our best game yesterday either. We can play better. I’ll point that out to them as well as the positive spots.”

It is just that mix the Terps will carry with them into Saturday’s meeting with N.C. State (3-3, 2-1) at Byrd Stadium and the five games after it. Maryland was in a similar position last year, only to lose four of its last five games and miss a bowl game for the second straight season.

Yet that group didn’t enjoy a win quite as improbable as this. Not over a longtime nemesis (albeit one enduring its roughest season in two decades), not from three possessions down and, perhaps most importantly, not before embarking on the roughest stretch of the season.

“We have a tough schedule ahead of us, and after that win, we probably can get some momentum going,” said tailback Keon Lattimore, who ran for a career-high 114 yards and a touchdown. “We go back home next week. I think it was definitely good for our morale.”

So much so that Friedgen entertained prospects of a conference title Saturday. While Maryland still has much to prove, it remains part of the indistinguishable scrum known as the Atlantic Division.

All six teams in the division have at least one league loss (Florida State has two) as they have collectively regressed to the mean, creating a six-week scramble for a berth in the ACC title game in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Let’s see what we do next week,” Friedgen said. “Every goal we have is still there. N.C. State got beat [Saturday by Wake Forest], so we’re right there with everybody else.”

For the first time since perhaps 2003 — the last year Maryland earned a bowl berth — the Terps might have reason to believe it. Virginia was nothing close to a top-25 team, and the Terps probably shouldn’t have fallen behind to begin with.

But if anything can prove to a team that it always has a chance, the second half of Saturday’s game is it.

“It definitely helps,” Hollenbach said. “That’s something we’re going to be able to draw off of when we get in that situation again. Being down 20-0 and coming back and getting a win, that kind of says to us whatever the score is in the game we can always come back.”

Notes — Friedgen said fullback Tim Cesa (stinger) and reserve guard Jaimie Thomas (ankle) were hurt Saturday, but he does not believe either injury is major. …

Friedgen said defensive end Barrod Heggs’ status for Saturday is uncertain. Heggs was suspended for a violation of team rules and did not travel to Virginia. …

Tackle Jared Gaither’s false start penalty in the first quarter Saturday was the first false start or offsides call enforced against Maryland this season.

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