Maryland-Navy 2005: A Frantic Finish

Sam Hollenbach's 11-yard fourth quarter TD pass sealed the deal for Maryland's 23-20 win over Navy.

The most recent matchup between intrastate rivals Maryland and Navy produced one of the more wild fourth quarters in recent Terps history.

Terps’ QB Sam Hollenbach’s 11-yard touchdown pass to WR Drew Weatherly with 1:01 remaining capped off a fourth quarter that featured three lead changes while securing a 23-20 Maryland victory.

Hollenbach finished the day completing 19 of 30 pass attempts for 217 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. The lone touchdown to Weatherly highlighted a fourth quarter in which he went 6-7 for 91 yards.

The game’s back-and-forth final stanza provided an exciting finish to the Terps and Midshipmen’s first meeting since 1964.

Following a Navy punt early in the fourth quarter with Maryland trailing 14-9, the Terps marched 66 yards on eight plays culminating in a Mario Merrills 12-yard touchdown run. The big play on the drive was Hollenbach’s 28-yard strike to WR Derrick Fenner on a 2nd-and-13 play. The Terps led 15-14 after a failed two-point attempt.

Merrills rushed for 32 yards on six carries to carry much of the load on the drive. The senior back was the offensive star that day, racking up 149 yards on 30 carries to go along with his fourth quarter touchdown. Merrills’ performance was the shining moment in his 2005 season, accounting for nearly half of his 313 rushing yards.

The Midshipmen took over on their own 20-yard line with just over nine minutes remaining in the contest. Predictably, they turned to their dynamic triple-option attack to carve up the Maryland defense. RB Matt Hall punched in his second touchdown of the day from six yards out on the tenth play of the drive to give Navy the lead with under five minutes remaining in the game.

All but 16 yards on the drive came on the ground as four different Navy runners carried the ball. However, a failed two-point try kept the score 20-15.

The Terps took control at their 18-yard line with 4:37 remaining. Maryland moved down the field mainly on the strength of three Hollenbach completions and on two runs by RB Lance Ball. However, Ball’s gain of 16 earlier in the drive had been called back and contributed to the Terps facing a 4th-and-7 at the Midshipmen 31 with just over a minute left.

But Hollenbach connected with Ball for a 20-yard gain to the Navy 11, setting up Weatherly’s touchdown reception on the very next play. Merrills punched in the two-point conversion to give the Terps a three-point advantage.

After an illegal forward pass on the ensuing kickoff backed Navy up on their 9-yard line, the Midshipmen could muster only 16 yards before a desperation heave by QB Lamar Owens was picked off by DB Chris Varner.

Varner’s interception sealed a Terps’ victory that seemed unlikely early in the contest.

Following a Daniel Ennis 26-yard field goal on Maryland’s opening drive, Navy stormed ahead with touchdowns on its first two possessions to take a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Owens did most of his damage through the air on the first drive, connecting on two big pass plays that accounted for 55 yards. On the second scoring drive, Owens rushed for 40 yards, setting up Marco Nelson’s 7-yard touchdown run.

Ennis kept the Terps in the game by kicking field goals of 27 and 40 yards with seconds remaining in the second and third quarters respectively.

Despite taking on Navy’s ground-based offense, the Terps held their own in time of possession (29:43 to 30:17) and yards rushing (210 to Navy’s 246). In fact, Maryland averaged 5.3 yards per carry, besting Navy’s mark of 5.0.

The Terps also took advantage of an uncharacteristic eight penalties for 51 yards by the Midshipmen, which compared to Maryland’s two penalties for 20 yards.

The 2005 game bears great resemblance to this week’s showdown. Like in 2005, this year’s game will be played at the neutral site of M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore in the season’s opening weekend.

The Terps will also still have to contend with Navy’s triple option attack despite former Midshipmen head coach Paul Johnson’s departure for Georgia Tech after the 2007 season. Current coach Ken Niumatalolo still depends on an effective ground game to attack opposing defenses.

Despite these similarities, it will be difficult for the 2010 Maryland-Navy game to match the excitement produced in the final quarter from the match-up five years ago.

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