CLEMSON — Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen sounds almost dumbfounded when reflecting on his team's losing bout with injuries.
"I've never been in a situation like this in 39 years of coaching," he said.
Time does not allow us to scour 39 years of news accounts to verify that claim. Never know if Friedgen experienced something similar, say, when he was spending seven years at The Citadel as an assistant in the 1970s.
We'll go ahead and take the (big) man at his word. History aside, Maryland's injury woes are pervasive enough that the Terrapins' chances of ACC contention could be history.
Before the season, Maryland (4-3, 1-2) was already perilously thin on the offensive line after the loss of tackle Stephon Heyer to graduation, tackle Jared Gaither to academics, and guard Donnie Woods to other pursuits.
Friedgen had a seven-man rotation — not ideal but manageable. Included was right guard Andrew Crummey, who was voted first-team All-ACC in July.
But then Crummey went down with a broken leg in the second quarter of an Oct. 6 win over Georgia Tech.
And then Jaimie Thomas, the starter at left guard, suffered the same injury in the second quarter of Saturday's 18-17 loss to Virginia.
Now, Friedgen has five linemen he's comfortable playing. But beyond that, substitution might as well be a four-letter word.
"Behind those guys we have walk-ons and freshmen that are really not ready to play, to be completely honest with you," Friedgen said. "We'll do what we have to do. Hopefully, they get ready."
The offensive line attrition is only the beginning. Quarterback Jordan Steffy, who started the first five games, was finally cleared this week after missing three weeks with a concussion. Linebacker Erin Henderson, star of the defense, missed the Georgia Tech game with a knee injury — and then suffered a chipped tooth against Virginia.
Defensive end Mack Frost, who hails from Columbia, blew out his knee in the same game and is out for the season. Defensive tackle Travis Ivey was lost with a knee injury suffered against Georgia Tech.
Nope, not done yet. Fullback Cory Jackson will miss Saturday's game against Clemson with a broken hand suffered against Virginia.
"We are going to do the best we can and we're going to keep fighting," Friedgen said. "That's what I'm going to do, and hopefully our team will do the same. I've never seen a year like this. I've seen guys get nicked up, but I haven't seen the broken bones we're having."
Friedgen did remarkable things the first three years of his tenure, guiding the Terps to a 31-8 record that included an ACC title his first year (2001). But keeping this team in the Atlantic Division race might require the best coaching magic of his career, largely because of the glaring problems up front.
Maryland rushed for an average of 177 yards in its first five games this season and totaled 439 yards on the ground in back-to-back games against Wake Forest and Rutgers. It's no coincidence that the Terps rushed for a season-low 88 against Georgia Tech, and 130 against Virginia.
Last year, Friedgen's team somehow found a way to win nine games. If not for a home defeat to Wake Forest in the final game of the regular season, the Terps would have played for the conference title in Jacksonville, Fla.
This year, they might not have to wait that long for its ACC hopes to be vanquished.
Mikell Simpson, Virginia
Mikell who? That's what viewers were saying as they watched the redshirt sophomore tailback/wideout carve up Maryland for 271 total yards (152 receiving, 119 rushing).
Injuries to running backs Cedric Peerman, Andrew Pearman and Rashawn Jackson allowed Simpson to rise to the forefront. Given Saturday's performance, he should stay there.
Game of the week
No. 2 Boston College at No. 8 Virginia Tech, tonight, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The Eagles' defense might be better than you think. And the Hokies' offense might be worse than you think.
Name of the week
Tommy Mama, cornerback, Central Michigan
A little late, yes, but way too good to pass up. According to a loyal reader from Charleston, a Tigers fan was overheard yelling, "Put in yo Mama!" during Clemson's 70-14 smashing of the Chippewas last week.
Reach Larry Williams at email@example.com