- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2009

Men, this is a football. Don’t let it out of your sight and especially not out of your possession.

Oops, sorry, too late. Maryland’s reeling Terrapins are racing toward the worst season in coach Ralph Friedgen’s nine years, and the biggest reason is a horrible habit of giving up the pigskin.

In four games, three of them losses, the Terps have committed 13 turnovers - more than enough to make Friedgen rip out what remains of his hair. Five came in Saturday’s 34-13 clobbering by Rutgers at wet and miserable Byrd Stadium, and two produced immediate scores by the appreciative Scarlet Knights.

As a result, Maryland will lug a 1-3 record onto the field Saturday when Clemson visits for the Terps’ ACC opener. Shades of the sad, sorry days when Joe Krivak, Mark Duffner and Ron Vanderlinden coached hopeless outfits in College Park.

None of this is Friedgen’s fault, of course, but it might not be a good idea to ask him, “How’s it going, Ralph baby?” At least not until Nov. 29, the day after the Terps’ Lost Season mercifully ends.

Against a so-so Rutgers outfit missing its starting quarterback, the Terps needed exactly 13 seconds to suggest that this wouldn’t be their day, either. On the first offensive play, quarterback Chris Turner’s pass into the flat ended up in the hands of Scarlet Knights linebacker Antonio Lowery, who promptly ended up in the end zone 36 yards later.

With Maryland somehow leading 13-10 in the third quarter, Turner was hit near his own goal line by safety Joe Lefeged and fumbled into the hands of defensive end George Johnson in the end zone. And by way of continuing the trend, running back Da’Rel Scott lost the ball late in the period, setting up a 37-yard field goal by Rutgers’ San San Te.

Rutgers running back Joe Martinek bolted 29 and 61 yards for fourth-quarter touchdowns with unexpected ease to turn a debacle into a drubbing. Did the Terps give up, psychologically at least? I wouldn’t suggest such a thing, but why not? After all, they gave up nearly everything else this dreary afternoon.

Friedgen undoubtedly will tear his troops a new collective rump between now and the Clemson game, but does it really matter? Anybody know the date of Maryland’s first basketball game, both male and female varieties?

In fact, you might want to get a small bet down on whether supporters of the Terps or the Redskins will be more miserable by the time winter arrives. Right now it looks like a dastardly deadlock in the gloom and doom department.

Before Rutgers headed south, the Terps were bashed by California, taken into overtime by unimposing James Madison and nipped at the final gun by Middle Tennessee. Really, all this negativity is no surprise. The Terps have only 12 seniors on the squad, which is a very good way to produce catastrophic results. Over Friedgen’s nine seasons, the Terps have morphed from sensational to so-so, or worse.

His first three years (2001 to 2003), yielded a 31-8 record and appearances in two major bowls. Nowadays, however, most of the euphoria is long gone. Since 2004, Fridge’s Terps are 34-31, which is spelled m-e-d-i-o-c-r-e in any sporting language. Even worse, Maryland is 18-24 against ACC opposition since 2004, and looming directly ahead are eight consecutive conference games.


Fortunately for his peace of mind perhaps, Friedgen’s contract runs through the 2011 season, and any buyout likely would cost the university far too much to consider in these perilous economic times. Yet attendance at Byrd is on the decline - Saturday’s announced crowd was 43,848, more than 10,000 under capacity - and 23 of its 64 new luxury suites remain unsold. Ominous portents all.

Not many fans seem to be yowling yet for Maryland alum Friedgen to become eligible for the Terrapins Alumni Association. There’s little question, though, that his glittering reputation as a pigskin savior has been in tatters for a while now.

The Fridge undoubtedly will appeal to his players’ pride and manhood from here on out, if he hasn’t already. But long before the leaves start to fall, his Terps already have. And then some.

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