'Desperation' sets in after loss to UNC

A glum Ralph Friedgen took a seat in front of the microphone after tonight's game and glanced at the final statistics for several seconds before saying a word. He was looking for something to quantify what was another devastating last-minute loss, one which puts Maryland's chances of making a bowl game in serious jeopardy.

The stats didn't tell much of the story—in fact, a quick glance of everything but the final score, 16-13 in North Carolina's favor, might have indicated Maryland won. So even as Friedgen tried to explain what went wrong in the Terps' third straight defeat, he was still at a loss of words.

"Well," he said, "I don't know what to say. It seems like a broken record to me."

It gradually became clear what hindered Maryland (4-5, 1-4 in the ACC) as Friedgen continued. There was miscommunication, misalignments, miscalls. Mis-anything, and the Terps were probably guilty of it. And if there was one play that summarized it all, it was the most crucial.

Facing a must-convert 4th and 2 with just over 40 seconds remaining in the game, Friedgen called for quarterback Chris Turner to roll to his left on a pass pattern. The play was designed to increase Turner's protection up front, particularly on the left side, where the inexperienced Paul Pinegar and Bruce Campbell played for much of the game.

It didn't work. North Carolina (3-6, 2-3 in the ACC) still got significant pressure and Turner threw the ball over LaQuan Williams' head into Maryland's sideline.

"I don't know what I was doing on that play," said Turner, who completed 20-of-36 passes for 209 yards. "Everything was happening so fast, it was fourth down, and I should have made a better attempt at completing the pass."

"I didn't think that was a great call," Friedgen said. "Throwing it to Chris' left is not the smartest thing either because he's better to his right and I knew that. I made a mistake, put it on me."

There were plenty of mistakes made on the field, too. The usually disciplined Terps committed a season-high nine penalties. None was more crucial than linebacker Dave Philistin's pass interference on a 3rd and 7 in the third quarter. It gave the Tar Heels a fresh set of downs, and two plays later, quarterback T.J. Yates connected with Hakeem Nicks for a 30-yard touchdown.

A Maryland penalty on the drive before brought back a gain of 18 yards, which would have put the Terps in North Carolina territory.

"Our margin error right now is very, very slim," Friedgen said.

Maryland's field position didn't help things either. Eight of its first nine possessions in the first half started inside its own 26 yard line. Only one of those ended in a score—a 26-yard field goal by Obi Egekeze. Turner said that the crowd noise from the 56,000 fans at Kenan Stadium also affected the offense's play early on, and it finished the first quarter with just 3 yards of offense on nine plays.

The Terps' maligned defense, however, kept them in the game. After the Tar Heels' touchdown drive early in the third quarter, they only got as far as Maryland's 36 yard line, and punted. Even in the first half, the defense forced Yates into two interceptions and caused him to fumble, though that was given right back when linebacker Erin Henderson fumbled on the return.

It gave up only 259 total yards, the least amount since the second game of the season against Florida International.

"The thing I was worried about us and I didn't think that that happened to us—and I think it has happened in the last couple games—is we get wore down because there's not a lot of substitutes. I thought our second half was better than our first half today," Friedgen said.

Winning the battle on the stat sheet hasn't happened often for Maryland lately, but it's no consolation for the loss tonight. Maryland needs two wins to become bowl eligible, but it may need three to be assured a bowl, depending on how many ACC teams notch six wins—the minimum to be considered for the postseason.

Next week, the Terps get No. 2 Boston College and then finish the season at Florida State and at N.C. State. A win against a sputtering North Carolina team would have put them in a favorable position, but the loss instead invoked an ominous feeling from Turner in particular.

"You forget how to win it's been so long at this point," he said. "It's just so desperate at this point. Everything that's going wrong is going wrong.

"Things aren't looking good at this point."

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