- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 13, 2009

If Maryland’s season-opening loss at California wasn’t a reflection of the Terrapins’ true abilities, well, fine. They’d flown cross-country, run into a team with a Heisman candidate and the urgency to rectify an forgettable performance from a season earlier, and got a horde of young players their first extensive experience.

All were valid explanations for a lousy prime-time showing.

On Saturday night, though, there were none. And this time, after the Terps eked out a 38-35 overtime defeat of James Madison, the concerns seem even more troublesome.

Maryland (1-1) frittered away a 15-point lead, established an intermittent rushing game and yielded 6.8 yards a play before 46,485 at Byrd Stadium before avoiding the undeniable nadir of coach Ralph Friedgen’s nine seasons when Nick Ferrara kicked a 26-yard field goal to give the Terps a victory in their first overtime home game since 2000.

If not for the 11 penalties for 105 yards assessed to James Madison, the Terps might not have made it to overtime.

Ultimately, though, Maryland had its finest moments in the extra session. After limiting the Dukes (0-1) to 2 yards on three plays, kicker Dixon Wright pushed a 41-yard attempt wide right. The Terps then rolled inside the 10 before handing the game to Ferrara, a true freshman who has made all three of his attempts.

Even with the victory, some pain from Saturday night could linger for some time. Cornerback Nolan Carroll suffered a broken tibia in the middle of the fourth quarter and is likely out for the season.

The Dukes left College Park with a $325,000 check but with neither their first victory over a major-college opponent since 1990 nor the fictitious ACC/CAA Challenge trophy in the wake of a pair of high-profile victories a week ago.

James Madison quarterback Drew Dudzik threw for 141 yards, ran for 112 and accounted for three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Chris Turner completed 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards, a touchdown and an interception for Maryland.

One of his more impressive throws came with 5:09 left in regulation, when he connected with Adrian Cannon on a 27-yard scoring play. But even that merely tied a surprisingly high-scoring affair at 35-35 - and left both teams with plenty of work still to do in overtime after a back-and-forth regulation.

The Terps’ defensive troubles were evident throughout the first half, when the Dukes carved up Maryland for 7.8 yards a play. James Madison, familiar with defensive coordinator Don Brown’s schemes, didn’t struggle as it rotated Dudzik and Justin Thorpe in its season opener.

At times, the problems were costly for the Terps, who seemed incapable of handling James Madison’s option for much of the half. Even some of Maryland’s best moments - such as Deege Galt’s blocked field goal just before the break - were necessitated when the Dukes unexpectedly got loose.

Then again, Maryland had some advantages it was able to exploit. Sophomore Torrey Smith replied to James Madison’s first scoring drive with an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the second of his career and the Terps’ first at home since Lewis Sanders brought one back against Western Carolina in 1999.

Not everything could be so comfortable for Maryland, which again was limited by its patchwork offensive line. With junior Bruce Campbell (turf toe) out, Paul Pinegar swung over from right tackle to left tackle and R.J. Dill made his first career start. Meanwhile, Bennett Fulper earned the nod at left guard, becoming the first true freshman offensive lineman to start for Maryland since Jared Gaither in 2005.

The line, already a weakness, did little to improve its reputation. Turner rarely had much time to throw, instead firing off quick darts for small gains.

Sometimes, even that didn’t work. The Dukes, once down 21-6, gradually pecked away at the Terps’ lead and tied it when Dudzik connected with tight end Mike Caussin on a 15-yard touchdown with 3:05 left in the third quarter.

Moments later, the Dukes had the edge. Turner forced a pass into traffic, and Jon Williams brought it back 38 yards for a score.

And so it went. Maryland rallied to tie on Smith’s 8-yard end around, only for Dudzik to scamper 70 yards for another go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter.

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