Terps' Season On The Brink
By Craig Heist
After two straight home losses against Atlantic Coast Conference foes Virginia and Clemson, the Maryland football season is slowly crumbling right before coach Ralph Friedgen’s eyes.
At 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the conference, any hopes of winning the ACC title are out the window, and now the Terps are faced with the task of winning two games to become bowl eligible and may have to win three games to be invited anywhere.
It would be easy to rip Friedgen's squad if it wasn't a team decimated with injuries. The Terrapins lost three more players last week. Tight end Dan Gronkowski suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury; freshman Bruce Campbell, who was starting at tackle because of an injury, suffered a leg injury; and Dan Costa is out indefinitely with a neck injury.
Senior running back Keon Lattimore was responsible for one of the Terrapins' touchdowns in Saturday's loss to Clemson.
“Clemson is a good football team,” Friedgen said after the 30-17 loss. “We’re not the same team we were [at the start of the season], but I think emotionally and heart-wise we’re still the same. People that know me know I’m not a big guy on losing. Our kids hung in there. I told our team after the game that I was proud of the way they hung in there, and in the long run we will be better for this.”
Terps fans certainly hope so. Saturday’s loss to the Tigers wasn’t as close as the score indicated, and the numbers don’t lie.
Terry Bowden’s team racked up 428 yards of total offense to Maryland’s 314, and most came in the fourth quarter when the Terps scored their two touchdowns on a pair of short runs by Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore. The Tigers rushed for 249 yards, while the Terps managed just 97.
Clemson running back James Davis backed up his guarantee from earlier in the week that the Tigers would win the game by rushing for 134 yards on 29 carries and one touchdown.
“Maryland showed a lot of class tonight,” Davis said. “I didn’t make the guarantee to disrespect their team. I did it to motivate my own team and get my guys ready to go.”
It worked. Davis’ teammate, C.J. Spiller, had 106 yards on 17 carries and five receptions for 54 yards, and quarterback Cullen Harper was 20 of 26 for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Hurting Maryland most was the fact that the Tigers held the ball 13 minutes longer.
“We didn’t tackle tonight, myself included,” Terps linebacker Erin Henderson said. “We’ve got to do a better job of tackling.”
It’s that aspect of Maryland’s game which has drawn the ire of fans and has many calling for defensive coordinator Chris Cosh’s job.
Where do the Terps go from here, and how does a team riddled with injuries find a way to win enough games to make themselves bowl eligible?
“We are playing to go to a bowl right now,” Terps quarterback Chris Turner said. “We wanted to win the ACC, and I don’t think the chances of that are too good right now, but we want to go to a bowl, and we want to win out from here, and we can still have a good season."
Unfortunately the schedule the rest of the way makes a bowl unlikely.
Running back Lance Ball and the Maryland Terrapins will have to overcome a battered roster in order to make a bowl this season.
This week the Terps go on the road to face North Carolina. That is followed by their home finale against unbeaten and second-ranked Boston College and then two road games against Florida State and N.C. State to finish out the season.
The team’s pride and determination will be tested the last four weeks and after the loss to Clemson, Henderson speculated about what the rest of the season will bring.
“It’s always about pride, man,” he said. “We just gave up 255 yards on the ground. Our pride is hurt right now, but it’s always about pride, no matter what it is. I have said it before. I believe in this group of guys here, and we are going to continue to fight and battle, and we got four more left.”
Lattimore said that what he will take with him the next four weeks is what Friedgen told the team after Saturday’s loss.
“He said we don’t want to make losing a habit,” Lattimore said. “Once you get in that rhythm, it’s kind of hard to switch it back up. We have to really dig down deep. This hampered our chances at the ACC Championship and that was our goal, so now we just have to go out and play and try to get to a good bowl game.”
Lattimore also knows the reality of the situation and why the Terps managed just 97 yards on the ground. It’s the same reason they have struggled since winning the Rutgers game.
“I think it has a lot to do with the injuries,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of key guys on that offensive line injured. I think there were three starters on the line that were missing tonight, and I think that was a key factor. We had to plug guys in there with no experience, but they have to get the experience at some point. But I think the injuries are definitely a factor in the running game.”
“Going to a bowl game after what this team has gone through would be a good thing,” Friedgen said. “What we have to do is try and get well. We’ve got to get some players out there.”
Issue 2.44: November 1, 2007