Wounded Terps seek winning finish at UNC

Wounded Terps seek winning finish at UNC
November 23, 2012, 1:30 pm
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Injuries suffered on offense derailed the bowl-seeking Terps' chances and fueled the current five-game losing streak. Now Maryland's hopes of ending the 2012 campaign with a season-finale victory have taken a hit because of another wave of hurt, this time on the other side of the ball.

Already down to their fifth-string quarterback, the Terps (4-7, 2-5 ACC) will play at North Carolina on Saturday without starting linebacker Darin Drakeford (head) and likely captain Joe Vellano. Listed as doubtful on Maryland's injury, the All-ACC defensive tackle is dealing with an ankle injury. Indeed, for this team, the hits just keep on coming.

The fallout from the school's just announced decision to leave the ACC after 59 years and join the Big Ten starting in 2014-15 has overshadowed everything on the College Park campus, at least in the sports world. Considering how the football side of things has gone since mid-October, losing some of the spotlight isn't such a bad thing, but one final look will be had by all Saturday in Chapel Hill (3:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) in Maryland's first meeting with North Carolina since 2008.

Maryland has not claimed victory since defeating Virginia 27-20 on October 13. In the subsequent five games, the Terps have not scored more than 18 points in a single game. Over the last three games without a scholarship quarterback available, the Terps have lost by an average of 27.3 points per contest.

While the offense's production has dropped precipitously following the loss of four scholarship quarterbacks - converted linebacker Shawn Petty started the last three games - Randy Edsall's defense has been able to lean on its experienced front-seven. That apparently won't be the case in the finale against a North Carolina (7-4, 4-3) attack that ranks third in the ACC with 40.2 points per game.

Vellano, the interior leader of the nation's 15th ranked defense, ranks fourth in the ACC with 1.27 tackles for loss per game despite dealing with the persistent ankle injury throughout the season. The rugged lineman is also tied with his fellow senior Drakeford for fifth in the conference with 6.0 sacks.

The Terps have already played the previous two games with linebacker and leading tackler Demetrius Harstfield (knee), one of ten players and likely starters lost for the season due to injury. In addition to the quarterbacks, Maryland's offense is without leading rusher Wes Brown.

Dynamic freshman receiver and returner Stefon Diggs, three-time's selected ACC rookie of the week, remains standing. The Terps will need the former Good Counsel star to be at his all-around best against the Tar Heels. Ranked 10th all-time on Maryland's single-season receiving list with 766 yards, Diggs has racked up 1,648 all-purpose yards.

Stepping in for Brown at running back, Brandon Ross rushed 16 times for a career-high 100 yards in Maryland's previous road game at Clemson, but was held to 30 yards last week against Florida State. Considering the struggles in the passing game, Maryland needs more on the ground for a chance at keeping pace with North Carolina. In three games at quarterback, Petty has thrown for five touchdown passes with only one interception, but is completing less than half his passes and is averaging less than 100 passing yards per game.

Maryland has won five of the last six in the series with North Carolina (8-4) and four of the last six in Chapel Hill. However, the Tar Heels are 5-1 at home this season and another victory would give the program its best season winning percentage since 1997.

North Carolina has won two of its last three including a 37-13 triumph at Virginia last week as quarterback Bryn Renner completed 29 of 36 attempts for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively the Tar Heels, rebounded after allowing 68 points the previous week to Georgia Tech in UNC's only home loss of the season and remain second in scoring defense within the conference.