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The Goal - See 'em all!
Maryland INT at One Thwarts FIU, 14-10, as time expires
College Park, MD - CFF headed West on 50 to Route 495N to MD 201 South to 193 East to Stadium Drive (with one wrong turn- we use paper, not GPS), parked in the fourth level of the new UMD parking garage, bought a ticket for $10 on the way in (could've gotten cheaper later), bought a program, bought and ate two hot dogs, and sat in a wrong seat high above the Byrd Stadium playing surface about seven minutes before the 6 pm kickoff between the Maryland Terrapins and the Florida International Panthers. The teams had already warmed up, the anthem had been played, and we waited for two teams to come back out on the field for some more excitement. That's the tough part of these DH's - you don't get to savor the atmosphere surrounding the main event on the field, but in the essence of time and money, we saw two games this day to see two more teams get us to this crazy Goal! The score of this one is not indicative of a well-played, hard-hitting game. Instead, we saw what seemed like two lethargic teams trying to get a game over with with little sense of urgency to win this one by either one side. This was especially disappointing from the 0-4 Panther perspective since they already had three straight close losses under their belts and should have been on the verge to give a great effort to get that elusive first win. Instead, they played as if it was a non-conference game that didn't mean anything and to get it out of the way to get back into the Sun Belt swing where they think that they possibly have a chance to win some games. If any team played prime for an upset, it was 3-1 Maryland today, who has to be one of the worst 3-1 teams in the nation. They played the game out to get it out of the way before they start play in the better but declining ACC where they are in for a rude awakening - similar to what it's like beating William & Mary, Middle Tennessee and FIU relative to getting smacked around by West Virginia! What's more disturbing about FIU, for a team being coached by a former NFL QB, is that they certainly had no clue how to manage the clock well to run more plays when they needed to set up their final score. If they had, there would probably be a different story here as we had predicted. We added FIU as #111, but we felt robbed by both teams' efforts. FIU punted 8 times while the Terps punted seven times.
Maryland scored first on their second possession of the game when FIU P Chris Cook (average of 41.6 yards/punt) shanked his second punt for a net of 13 yards. Maryland took over at the FIU 43. From the 14, Maryland's screen pass from Sam Hollenbach (17 of 31, 158 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) to RB Josh Allen was perfectly timed as FIU put on the blitz. The extra point by Dan Ennis was good for a 7-0 Terp lead. Cook kept the Terps deep in their own territory at the 8 with his next punt.
Q2 started with U of M punting from their own 15 after Hollenbach was sacked. FIU went three and out to punt. Maryland started from its 33 and began to sustain a drive, but Hollenbach's pass into the end zone was picked by CB Lionel Singleton who was unsure whether to bring it out after he caught it. He eventually brought it out to his own 13 - bad decision! So we thought. A two yard loss on the next play set up the Panthers' first score! QB Josh Padrick (15 of 34 for 221 yards, 1 TD) dropped back to connect with TE Sam Smith who shook one tackler and rambled downfield picking up a key block from WR Chandler Williams for an 89-yard TD play. PK Dustin Rivest added the conversion to tie it, 7-7. Maryland got a 30-yard return to the 40 by Josh Wilson. The Terps drove to the FIU 20, but got pushed back from there to bring the "BOO Birds " out! A 47-yard FG went wide left and more Boo Birds came out. FIU went nowhere from its 30 and punted back. This time returner Danny Oquendo brought it back 37 yards to the FIU 28 with :49 left in the half. Oquendo was on the receiving end of a Hollenbach pass that got to the ten, and a helmet to helmet penalty put the Terps at the five of FIU. Two hard blitzes by FIU forced Hollenbach to throw incompletions. On the next play, FIU didn't blitz, and Hollenbach found Isaiah Williams for a five-yard TD pass with :10 left in the half. Ennis converted for a 14-7 lead at the half.
Like Navy, Maryland celebrated an anniversary at the half. The Terps' 1976 team was the first to ever win eleven games in a season. Jerry Claiborne was ACC Coach of the year. His team finished the regular season with three consecutive shutouts before succumbing to Houston, 30-21, in the Cotton Bowl. They were introduced to the crowd of 45,317 who didn't rush out to the concession stands at the half. Also, presentations were made to all Maryland athletes maintaining 3.5 grade point averages. We know one who couldn't be there because the women's softball team traveled to State College, PA this weekend for a fall tournament. Congratulations to Whitney Reigel, captain and shortstop for the Lady Terps!
The third quarter was a punt-fest as neither team moved the ball close to scoring position. The fans high atop Byrd Stadium were entertained during the period by a distant fire works display, maybe some kind of end of the summer celebration closer to D.C. As one fan remarked, there was more "action out there than was on the field!" The distant show was the highlight of the third period as the score remained, 14-7.
Q4 got a little more entertaining. FIU could only capitalize on one big play in the first half and seemed to be primed for one in the second. On his team's second possession, RB A'mod Ned burst up the middle of the line and outraced two Terp defenders until they caught him from behind at the five-yard line after a 52-yard jaunt. The tackle turned out to be game-saving. A procedure penalty pushed the Panthers back to the ten. They couldn't advance any further and settled for Rivest's 27-yard FG to cut the Terp lead, 14-10, with plenty of time to score some more with 10:42 remaining. The teams exchanged punts. Maryland started a drive from its own 21. With exactly three minutes left, RB Lance Ball (19 rushes for 82 yards) picked up 17 yards for a first down at the FIU 43. The clock continued to tick. By now, one would think that it's time for FIU to stop the clock to save time to use on its next possession as it would have to effectively use sideline patterns and spikes to stop the clock when they would get the ball back. Maryland ran the ball on the ground and the clock continued. Maryland moved seven yards to get into a fourth and seven at the FIU 36. With 1:44 left, FIU finally called time-out! The Fridge's Terps called another time-out. They went to the line and tried to draw FIU across. It didn't work. The Terps punted into the end zone, and the "big play" Panthers took over from their 20. Padrick threw an incompletion followed by two 3-yard passes over the middle. With fourth and four with 43 ticks remaining, FIU spent its second time-out. The Panthers didn't seem to have a passing game planned to get the ball out of bounds to stop the clock. A six-yard completion got the first down and stopped the clock. They were still 68 yards away from a TD with :35 remaining as Padrick spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down. He completed another six-yard pass. What was FIU thinking about with all these short passes? They spent their final time-out with :18 left. On third and four from the 38, Padrick finally heaved one long and it got caught by Chandler Williams for a 53-yard gain to the Terp nine. Only :01 remained! FIU rushed down field to set up for one play. The ball was spotted. It was snapped. Padrick threw toward the end zone, but the ball was intercepted by FS Chris Varner at the two where he fell to seal Maryland's third victory of the season in a game in which neither team played hard, or in the case of FIU -smart - to win it.
Maryland visits Georgia Tech in two weeks to start ACC play. Maryland looked like a team wanting some time off. Good luck. They're going to need it when they play teams with more talent than the three they've beaten unimpressively. The Panthers return to Florida to host Sun Belt member Arkansas State before going to play North Texas in another conference game. Then they have some more non-conference fun at Miami (F.) and then at Alabama. We hope they can do some nice things with those big paychecks they must have been promised! We go up to State College. PA next Saturday to get our first of two looks at JoePa's rebuilding project. This first one should be a rebound for the Lions as they come off a 28-6 loss at Ohio State to face 2-2 Northwestern, 31-21 losers to Nevada last Friday night. 79-year old JoePa gets to give 31-year old Pat Fitzgerald, the youngest whipper-snapper in College football, a lesson. We look forward to getting together with friends in Happy Valley!