Maryland-FIU 2006: Avoiding Disaster

TSR looks back to 2006 when the Terps escaped FIU with a 14-10 win

The Maryland Terrapins entered their September 2006 matchup against Florida International University with an unimpressive 2-1 record.

The Terps started the season 2-0 with victories over Div. I-AA William & Mary and (future nemesis) Middle Tennessee State of the Sun Belt Conference. Despite playing against such low competition, the wins were by rather pedestrian margins of 13 and 14 points, respectively.

Maryland then traveled to Morgantown for their first true test of the season only to be flattened by West Virginia 45-24.

So the Terps limped back to College Park to face FIU, an opponent more on par with the Middle Tennessee States of the world than with the Mountaineers.

However, this game proved no easy task.

The Terps escaped an embarrassing loss by the skin of their teeth, sealing a 14-10 win with an interception on their two-yard line on the game’s final play.

Maryland’s offense was anemic, gaining only 275 yards on the day. Quarterback Sam Hollenbach completed 17 of 30 passes for 158 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

However, big special teams plays were as responsible for the touchdowns as Hollenbach and the offense.

After each team punted on their first possession, the FIU offense stalled once again. Panthers’ punter Chris Cook, who boomed a 61-yarder for his first punt, followed that up with a 13-yard shank to give Maryland the ball at the FIU 43.

Eight plays later, Hollenbach connected with running back Josh Allen from 14 yards out for the first score of the day. The key play on the drive was a personal foul facemask penalty that negated a nine-yard sack by linebacker Alexander Bostic, which would have forced a fourth and 21.

The Terps struck again just before the end of the half. Once again, special teams set up the offense.

With just over a minute left, the Terrapins’ defense forced another Cook punt, which wide receiver Danny Oquendo returned for 37 yards to the Panthers’ 28-yard line.

Maryland reached the five after Hollenbach hit Oquendo for 18 yards and an additional five was tacked on for an FIU personal foul. After two incomplete passes, the Terps’ senior quarterback hooked up with wide receiver Isaiah Williams with 10 seconds left in the half to give the Terps a 14-7 lead.

The Panthers had tied the game at seven in a flash earlier in the second quarter.

Hollenbach drove the Terps to the FIU 32-yard line, before Panthers defensive back Lionell Singleton picked off his first down pass in the end zone. Singleton returned the ball to his own 13-yard line.

Following a loss of two on first down, FIU quarterback Josh Padrick connected with tight end Samuel Smith for an 89-yard touchdown, tying the game at seven.

FIU’s big-play ability kept its offense afloat against the Terps. Smith’s catch, along with a Chandler Williams 45-yard reception and an A’mod Ned 52-yard run, accounted for over half of the team’s 310 yards on offense.

It was Ned’s run that set up FIU kicker Dustin Rivest’s 26-yard field goal that narrowed the margin to four early in the fourth quarter.

However, it was the Terps defense that stepped up to force the field goal.

After the Panthers reached the Maryland five on Ned’s run, the defense stiffened. A false start pushed FIU back to the ten before the Terps stuffed Padrick on a first down run and forced two incomplete passes to bring up fourth down.

However, Maryland’s defense would have to come up with one more crucial stop to seal the win.

Maryland punter Adam Podlesh failed to pin the Panthers deep as his punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback, giving FIU the ball at their own 20 with 1:35 remaining to go the distance.

It took Padrick seven plays to move his offense to their own 46-yard line with seconds remaining. But Padrick made up a huge chunk of yardage by completing a 45-yard reception to Chandler Williams to give FIU the ball at the Maryland nine-yard line with time remaining for one more play.

The rally was squelched as Terps defensive back Chris Varner picked off Padrick’s pass as time expired.

Maryland had avoided a disastrous loss against a team that eventually went 0-12 on the year. They rebounded to win five of their first six ACC matchups and finished 9-4 with a win over Purdue in the Champs Sports Bowl.

The Terps met and defeated FIU the following season, this time by a 26-10 score. The 2007 Panthers were slightly better, finishing 1-11.

Maryland is once again seeking to beat a winless FIU team this Saturday. However, though this year’s squad is 0-2, the Panthers have lost by only 12 points combined to solid programs in Rutgers and Texas A&M.

If the Terps take them lightly, they may not be as lucky as they were in 2006.

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