It won’t be easy for Maryland to move past a jarring 31-24 overtime loss to Wake Forest.
A nicked-up left tackle doesn’t help matters.
Coach Ralph Friedgen said junior Scott Burley, who barely played in the second half of Saturday’s meltdown, has a bruised elbow and a soft tissue injury in his triceps. Friedgen said Burley likely will be ready when the Terrapins (2-2) visit No. 10 Rutgers (3-0) on Saturday.
“If he keeps getting hit on it, he’s not going to get better,” Friedgen said. “They say he can play, but how much can he play and much can he practice [isn’t certain]. Probably the only thing that will cure it is rest.”
Burley’s absence was noticeable as the Terps’ offense creaked to a halt in the second half. Maryland shifted right tackle Dane Randolph to the left side and put Jack Griffin in Burley’s spot, and Wake Forest proceeded to harass quarterback Jordan Steffy.
The Demon Deacons recorded four sacks in the second half and overtime, exacerbating a growing problem for Maryland. The Terps have taken 16 sacks this year after yielding only 19 a season ago — a result of line troubles, Steffy learning on the job and receivers failing to break loose.
With 15 sacks the last three weeks, this is the program’s worst stretch of protection since Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Clemson combined for 16 in consecutive games in 2004.
If Burley can’t play, it would leave freshman Bruce Campbell an injury away from being pressed into duty. Campbell’s only appearance was in the second half of the opener against Villanova.
“I’ve been saying all year we’re fragile at that position,” Friedgen said. “We had to move Dane over and play him in front of [Jeremy] Thompson. He’s a good player. That was a tough assignment for Dane. We got to the point where at the end of the game it was hard for us to throw because I was worried about sacks and trying to run the clock out, too.”
Both turned out to be factors in Maryland surrendering a 24-3 lead in the second half. The 21-point deficit was the largest squandered under Friedgen and the biggest given up by Maryland in at least a decade (and probably far longer than that).
Several problems factored into the collapse, notably a defense weary from containing Wake Forest’s slippery skill position players. But the offense was the clearest bugaboo in the latter stages of the loss.
Friedgen remained supportive of Steffy yesterday. The junior threw an interception that was brought back 100 yards for a touchdown to begin the surge and struggled to move the offense in the final quarter and overtime.
“I think I can always play better, there’s no question about that,” Steffy said. “It’s disappointing anytime you’re up however many points we were up and you give the game away. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we know it.”
Withstanding pressure will remain an area of concern until the Terps prove they can exploit a blitz. How soon that will be resolved is, like so many other things with Maryland’s sputtering offense, less definite.
“I think we are going through some things,” Friedgen said. “If you’re getting hit like he is, it’s not a confidence builder. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, too. It’s not just one thing. If it was, I could probably correct it.”
Note — Saturday’s game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ABC (Channel 7 in Washington and Channel 2 in Baltimore) will televise it regionally.