- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

ATLANTA — The Maryland football team’s penchant for ill-timed turnovers have taken it out of several games over the last few seasons.

Few of those miscue-induced defeats have proved quite so painful as two late in yesterday’s 27-23 loss to No. 18 Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

The Terrapins (3-2, 0-1 ACC) lost possession twice in the fourth quarter — one on a fumble, one on an interception, both times vexing to players and coach Ralph Friedgen — as they squandered a nine-point lead against the Yellow Jackets.

“If we don’t turn the ball over, we win the football game,” Friedgen said. “It’s that simple. We’re probably leading the country in turnovers now, and if we don’t stop doing that, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who’s coaching, doesn’t matter who’s playing. You’re going to get beat. That’s just the bottom line. I don’t know what I have to do to get it across to them.”

The first miscue was simply bizarre. On the first play after Georgia Tech closed within 23-21, quarterback Sam Hollenbach handed off to tailback Lance Ball at the Maryland 20. The junior never fully had possession and eventually dropped it, only to have Yellow Jackets linebacker KaMichael Hall fall on the ball.

The Yellow Jackets needed only two plays to score and take the lead away from the Terrapins for good. The fumble marked the Terps 21st straight game with a turnover, a streak that began in an Oct. 23, 2004, loss at Clemson.

“We went through the whole game without a turnover, and for some strange reason, we had a bad exchange down there in the green zone,” Ball said. “That can’t happen. We picked it up and marched down the field, but the bad exchange just happened at the wrong time.”

So did Hollenbach’s interception. The senior moved the Terps into Georgia Tech territory on the next possession, but he faced a fourth down at the Yellow Jackets 41. Hollenbach threw a pass over the middle to Darrius Heyward-Bey, but cornerback Kenny Scott raced in from behind the redshirt freshman for the pick with 7:47 left.

Georgia Tech ultimately didn’t create any points — Travis Bell missed a 31-yard field goal to cap the ensuing drive — but even that left Maryland with only 3:23 to move down the field.

“We did some things right, and then it just fell apart on us in the second half,” said Hollenbach, whose team’s average turnover margin of minus-1.5 entering the game ranked 115th out of 119 Division I-A teams. “It’s just so frustrating — so frustrating to come out of this with a loss.”

Along with the setback came an all-too-familiar lesson: The Terps cannot afford to beat themselves if they are to defeat a quality opponent.

“Those are things you can’t do, especially in the fourth quarter,” Hollenbach said. “It’s probably the reason we lost today. The most frustrating part is we feel like we’re past that point, and we feel like we’re a better team than is just going to turn the ball over in the fourth quarter. Obviously, that’s what happened, so I can’t say anything about it.”

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