- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

Light slipped beneath the horizon Saturday in College Park, and any number of things might have reached their conclusion.

Daylight was a goner before halftime at Byrd Stadium. Maryland’s season also lurched toward its expiration date, a spot on the calendar determined weeks ago. Whether the sun set on coach Ralph Friedgen’s tenure with the Terrapins, though, is still to be determined.

If Saturday was Friedgen’s final flourish, compared with the early stages of his career it was a whimper - a 19-17 loss to Boston College to cap the first 10-loss season in Maryland history. Athletic director Debbie Yow repeatedly has declined to comment on Friedgen’s status, instead waiting until the year is complete to evaluate him, as she does with all coaches.

“I expect to be coaching this team next year,” Friedgen said.

The Terrapins (2-10, 1-7 ACC) dropped their final seven games to cap Maryland’s fourth losing season in six years and to leave the program’s - and its coach’s - future in question. Friedgen, who is owed about $4 million for the final two years of his contract, fell to 66-46 in his career - including 35-38 in the past six seasons.

Friedgen said he and Yow will meet in the coming days to discuss how to improve a program that cratered this year thanks to a blend of shaky mid-decade recruiting and a massive experience drain from a season ago.

Friedgen said he has some ideas to tweak both the offense and the defense and hinted that the athleticism of the quarterbacks left in the program - including Jamarr Robinson, who split time Saturday as senior Chris Turner returned from a knee injury - could open up possibilities the Terps rarely if ever explored in recent seasons.

One thing seems certain: Friedgen won’t walk away on his own from a team he considered one of his favorites despite its ghastly record.

“They never quit on me. Why would I want to quit on them?” Friedgen said while choking up during a frequently emotional postgame news conference. “I want to be there when we’re good, so we can think about these times and laugh about them. They were even talking about that in the locker room afterward.”

No doubt plenty was discussed in the aftermath of the loss to the Eagles (8-4, 5-3), who scored only nine points in four red zone trips and still dealt Maryland its fifth loss by a possession or less.

Twelve scholarship seniors depart, including eight who started against Boston College. Whether their coach leaves with them remains unknown, though the Terps defended Friedgen’s work - which includes six bowl appearances in nine seasons.

“I feel like he deserves to leave on his own terms,” defensive tackle Travis Ivey said. “I feel like any coach should be able to leave on his own terms. He’s done a lot for this program. He’s done a lot for me personally. He’s done a lot for my teammates. A lot of times people like to blame coaches for losses, but at the end of the day, it’s probably 80 [percent] to 20 percent as to who is to blame. The players, we go out there and play - and we’re not executing.”

That was the case when Maryland rolled up just 177 yards in the first three quarters, and when Boston College’s Colin Larmond Jr. shrugged off cornerback Anthony Wiseman’s tackle attempt for a 66-yard touchdown on a short pass in the first quarter.

There were problems in the closing stages as well, much as there were all season. Robinson re-entered with Maryland down 16-10 with 4:53 left, only to bring the Terps within inches of a first down. The sophomore was stuffed on fourth down, and the Eagles’ Steve Aponavicius connected on a 42-yard field goal moments later to all but seal it.

“If I had it to do over again, I’d probably have punted the ball,” Friedgen said.

In fitting fashion, the Terps scrambled to piece together a touchdown drive, Robinson connecting with Torrey Smith on a 28-yard score in the closing minutes. But like so much of the rest of the season, it wasn’t enough to salvage anything truly memorable or valuable.

Ultimately, the lasting echo of this year won’t be the turnovers or the injuries or the myriad issues that combined to doom Maryland. It will be whether Friedgen, who endured rumors of his possible dismissal in the final week of the season, can survive and recover from a miserable autumn.

It was on his mind when he addressed the Terps for the last time this season and, potentially, the final time of his tenure.

“I told them I expected to be back, but if I’m not I wanted to tell them how much I loved them and appreciated their effort this whole year,” Friedgen said. “Sometimes when things happen you don’t get that opportunity. That’s all I said to them. But I do expect to be back.”

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