Turnovers Doom Terps
By David Snyder
Four weeks into the 2009 season, Maryland simply can’t get out of its own way offensively.
Turnovers were the story for the second consecutive week as the Terps gave the ball away five times, losing to Rutgers, 34-13. Maryland (1-3) is off to its worst start since 1997.
Down 20-13, with less than seven minutes to play, head coach Ralph Friedgen faced a difficult decision when confronted with a fourth-and-3 at midfield -- punt and send a tired defense back on the field or go for broke.
Friedgen chose the latter, as Chris Turner’s pass sailed over the head of Adrian Cannon, capping off a miserable day for the senior quarterback, who coughed up the ball four times (three interceptions, one fumble) and directly accounted for two Rutgers touchdowns.
The first came on Maryland’s opening play from scrimmage, as Turner gunned a pass across the middle into the awaiting arms of linebacker Antonio Lowery, who raced 36 yards for the score. Late in the third quarter -- after Maryland seemed to gain momentum following a goal line stand -- Turner was hit and stripped in the end zone. George Johnson pounced on the ball, handing Rutgers a 17-13 lead.
Friedgen was adamant about not heaping all the blame on his signal caller.
“No one on offense played well. Other guys have to be in the right places and do the right things too,” said a subdued Friedgen after the game. “I am disappointed. I thought our defense played their hearts out, and I really felt we had the chance to win it even though we played poorly on offense.”
Rutgers’ offense didn’t fare much better, particularly quarterback Domenic Natale, who went 4-of-12 passing for an anemic 42 yards and was sacked three times.
However, the Scarlet Knights’ greatest accomplishment on offense was the fact that they never turned the ball over, opting to play the field position game with the Terps, who lost punter Travis Baltz midway through the first quarter with a sprained ankle. The replacement duo of Nick Ferrera and Ted Townsley averaged a meager 32.5 yards per punt.
Stacked up in its own zone much of the day, the Terps defense performed admirably for the majority of the game, holding the Scarlet Knights (3-1) to 129 yards of total offense by the end of the third quarter. However, after Maryland’s failed fourth down conversion, the flood gates opened.
Joe Martinek gashed the Maryland on consecutive possessions with touchdown runs of 29 and 61 yards -- capping off a run of 24 unanswered points.
“It was eating me up because it didn’t look like we were pushing to finish the game out,” linebacker Alex Wujciak said.
The Terps appeared to have the momentum going into halftime, as Nick Ferrera’s 34-yard field goal with less than a minute to play gave the Terps their only lead of the game, 13-10.
Earlier in the quarter, Maryland tied the game 10-10 when Turner found a wide open LaQuan Williams down the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown. Penalties, turnovers and missed assignments prevented the Terps from getting a whiff of the end zone for the remainder of the game.
“I feel like once we eliminate the turnovers and start to play sound football we’re going to be a better team,” said Turner, who was 21-of-38 for 271 yards. “For me personally, it’s hard. It’s the first time in my career where I feel very responsible for the loss and I feel like I let my team down in a lot of ways.”
Posted Sept. 27, 2009