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Terps fend off Huskies, 23-20
College Park, MD – An 85-yard fumble recovery return by Northern Illinois LB Jason Hawkins closed the gap to 23-20 with 5:34 remaining in the game and Soph QB Phil Horvath passed his Huskies to the Terp 34-yard line as time expired at Byrd Stadium, and the Maryland Terrapins (1-0) held on to win with that score in the opener for both squads. Maryland won its 32nd game in 40 tries under Head Coach Ralph Friedgen and avenged a 20-13 OT loss to the Huskies (0-1) in last year’s opener in Dekalb, Ill. Northern Illinois became the 89th Division 1A football team to be seen by CollegeFootballFan.com in our quest to “see ‘em all!” Horvath stepped in for the senior starter Josh Haldi, who apparently injured his right foot during his first offensive series of the game. Haldi watched the rest of the game with a boot on his right leg as Maryland QB Joel Statham, a first-time starter himself, led the Maryland offense to 367 yards with a fairly good passing day in his debut. Coach Ralph Friedgen seems to have a new starter in place already to step in for graduated Scott McBrien who led the Terps to 21 victories over the last two seasons. RBs Josh Allen and Sammy Maldanado ran for 104 and 89 yards respectively and each scored a rushing TD in a balanced Terrapin offense.
Statham started off shakily with two errant pitches to his backs that cost him a turnover and a safety on the second and third possessions of the game. NIU drew first blood as a result when Allen recovered a bad pitch in the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 Husky lead. Husky punter Anthony Gallagher had a hand in the play as his preceding punt with an intentional backspin started the Terrapins back on their own two-yard line. At the end of Q1, NIU led 2-0, but UMD was on the move. Statham drilled a 24-yard pass to the 28-yard line as this stanza ended.
Sammy Maldanado took over from there with several good runs before taking it on a sweep around left end for the final nine yards, and put the Terps up, 7-0, with PK Nick Novak’s extra point. Terp MLB D’Qwell Jackson picked off one of his two INTS on the day off Horvath and returned it seventy yards on the ensuing series before it was called back due to a clipping penalty on the return. Maryland started at its own 34-yard line. With 8:48 remaining in the half, Novak converted a 43 yard FG to not only gain a 10-2 Terp lead, but to also take over the ACC career scoring record previously held by PK Scott Bentley of Florida State. Novak, the preseason All-American PK, would tally 11 points on the day to re-set the ACC mark with 335 points by the end of the game. He’ll extend that quite significantly before this season is through. The half ended with UMD leading, 10-2.
On the second half kickoff return, NIU return man Don Sheldon hesitated in the end zone before bringing it out to around the 25 where he was stripped of the ball. Maryland recovered and set up at the Northern Illinois 24. RB Josh Allen was put to work this time with his final carry resulting in a one-yard TD run up the middle. Novak’s PAT made it 17-2, and the Terps seemed in control early in the second half. However, Coach Joe Novak’s (no relation) NIU Huskies came back with a good mix of runs by TB AJ Harris and pinpoint passes by Horvath. Driving to the Terp five, Horvath faked a dive handoff on the right side and reversed his pivot to connect with diving wide-out Garret Wolfe in the end zone to cut the lead with a conversion to 17-9. The HIT of the day was made on the ensuing kickoff when Shedrick Massaman, listed as a redshirt freshman QB, leveled the return man with a solid tackle, as he remained upright. The instant replay on the scoreboard drew a duplicated big “ooooh!” from the crowd of 51,830 when shown again as a highlight. The jolt didn’t deter the Maryland offense though as it drove to the Husky 17 where Novak drilled another through the uprights to extend the lead, 20-9. The Huskies showed determination on their next series as well. On a fourth and five at the UMD thirty, Horvath connected with Wolfe again who made a leaping, diving over-the-head catch right in front of us near the left sideline at the Maryland six. The third period ended, and the teams moved to the other end where the Terps only allowed NIU two more yards. PK Chris Nendrick converted a 21-yard FG and cut the lead to 20-12 in favor of the Terrapins.
Maryland started its next series from its own 25 and drove to the Northern Illinois 28 where Novak easily converted once again on his record-setting day to go up 23-12. After forcing NIU to punt from its 35, the Terps seemed in control with a lead deep in Husky territory. Statham dropped deep to pass where he coughed up the ball, however, on a solid hit from behind by DE Ken West. SLB Jason Hawkins scooped up the loose pigskin and rambled 85 yards unchallenged for a Husky TD. On a two-point conversion, Horvath connected with WR Sam Hurd on a wide-open slant pattern over the middle to close the gap to a 23-20. With 5:34 left and three time-outs left, the Huskies were suddenly in reach to send this game into overtime for the second year in a row with a FG! The Terps moved to midfield where WR Rich Parsons dropped a catchable pass on third and five. NIU used a time-out and the Terps were forced to punt from midfield. With the ball starting at their own 20 with 2:04 left and two TOs remaining, Horvath led the Huskies to the Terp 34. However, a completed pass inbounds at that point and no TOs ended the Husky threat as time expired. The Terps won a good, exciting 23-20 opener against a very competitive Northern Illinois team who played without their starting QB Josh Haldi for almost the entire game. As a starter with an 18-6 record, Haldi could have probably made this an even more interesting game for the Terps. With both teams playing with new starters at QB gaining experience during the next few games, both should be ready to challenge for respective bowl opportunities established by their respective conferences’ bowl arrangements. CFF’s season got off to a great start with two teams that should play well, barring major injuries, through the course of the 2004 season. NIU returns home to next play 1AA Southern Illinois, and Maryland stays home to play the Temple Owls who were overwhelmed by Virginia this past weekend, 44-14.
Extra Points – NIU is officially CFF team #89. However, we were very concerned driving down finding out the night before that the game was now a sellout as are the next four Terp home games. Luckily, we found that unused seats allocated to the Maryland players are made available before the game at the ticket window. We were able to procure four, seven rows from the field behind the Maryland bench in the end zone. The “binos” came in handy with plays at the opposite end and there was lots of activity on our end where teams enter the field. Navy - Duke in Annapolis was considered as teh back-up game if this didn't work out.
Terp alum, Norman “Boomer” Esiason, stood with his kids in front of us on the field before the game speaking with friends and having pictures taken. At halftime, the 1974 ACC championship Terrapin team was introduced to the home crowd. Among them was Ken Schroy, long time member of the New York Jets secondary.
Friedgen is a great coach already, but you get concerned watching him walk along the sidelines. As a former lineman who probably took some hits in his day and who looks very overweight, he walks with a very painful gait. He does remind one of his nickname, a walking “Fridge”. He may be riding along in a golf cart soon like some prominent high school coaches we’ve seen in recent years. With all the trainers on board at the University though, you’d think they’d get him on a training program to make sure he’ll last through the 8-year extension they’ve given him.
Like most teams this season, NIU did everything to avoid returns by the Terps Steve Suter. The guy is quick, elusive and slippery. NIU kicked to other returners all game long and put a few out of bounds to avoid him. He did cramp up on one punt return and was stopped on the 22 on NIU’s last kickoff, which must have been a mental error on the kicker’s part.
The crowd of 51,830 was the 8th largest ever at Byrd Stadium.
Guest Game Analyst Darryl Reigel (Juniata) noted that Statham seemed to short-arm the ball whenever he threw. Though we don’t remember former QB Shaun Hill (now with the Minnesota Vikings) to throw that way, CFF thought the same about Scott McBrien. We wonder if it’s a release emphasized by the “Fridge” and offensive coordinator Charlie Taafe? Darryl’s wife, Kim (Pitt), got a lot of early Christmas shopping done at he souvenir shop at the beautiful, new Comcast Center. Their daughter, Whitney, All-Morris County (NJ) shortstop, will play softball for the Terrapins during her freshman year. Good luck, Whit! Her youngest sister, Corrie, bought a #32 (her own softball number) Maryland jersey on sale (50% off) at the Comcast Center. It was admired by several fans at Byrd who happened to be the parents of LB Tim Cesa, #32 from Kennesaw, GA for the Terps.