The left side of the Maryland offensive line was already down one starter when Andrew Gonnella fell to the sod of Byrd Stadium against Florida International on Saturday.
The left guard needed assistance limping off the field just a few minutes into the game. On the sideline, more than a few people groaned.
Two series later, though, Gonnella was back. A high ankle sprain wasn't stopping him.
"He is a tough hombre," coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Not to mention a crucial piece of Maryland's maturing offensive line.
Yes, Gonnella came to College Park as a lightly recruited walk-on, his bloodlines (he's the nephew of former Maryland All-American J.D. Maarleveld). Yes, he took his lumps as part of an inexperienced line as a sophomore.
Yes, he's more than a little high-strung on the field.
But he's better --- substantially better --- as a result of last year's experiences, few of them actually fun.
"It's a good feeling to finally reach that point," Gonnella said. "You get here, and the pace of the game is so fast and it's so hard not to make mistakes. You kind of slow things down and get rid of those mental errors on the field and things become second nature."
Still, it's hard to fight your nature sometimes.
Gonnella seemed to take a step back in a Sept. 18 loss at West Virginia, struggling as Maryland played in front of a hostile crowd for the first time this season. Friedgen knew that needed to be reversed --- quickly.
"Andrew would get so hyped up. He's really wound tight," Friedgen said. "When he first got in there, I don't know --- everything must have gone red. It'd be like 'What is he doing.' He kind of had a little bit of that up at West Virginia. I brought him in my office and talked to him. I said 'Look, it's not like you haven't done this stuff before. Your biggest thing is to have some poise. I'm counting on you to help the guys around you. You're the veteran.'"
The Terps (3-1), who meet Duke (1-3, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday in their conference opener, found themselves with an improved Gonnella in Saturday's 42-28 victory. Maryland uncorked two long touchdown runs, and tailbacks Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett combined to average 8.1 yards a carry.
This behind a revamped line that featured a shuffle of tackles and a week after the Terps ran for minus-10 yards at West Virginia.
"I'm kind of an up-tempo, amped-up guy, but I kind of understand what he means by playing with poise and calming down and managing certain situations," Gonnella said. "I kind of took that to heart. Myself and the rest of the line, we were able to show that against FIU."
For many linemen, the high ankle sprain would have marked an early end to the day. Instead, Gonnella hobbled off, got his foot taped, slapped on his helmet and played the final 49 minutes after briefly giving way to redshirt freshman Pete White.
"It was big," center Paul Pinegar said. "Not to knock on Pete White, but Gonnella is the definition of a soldier. The only thing that's going to keep him out is broken bones or torn ligaments. Anything else, he's a tough, tough s.o.b."
Added Scott: "Gonnella, man, that's one of the dudes I most respect. Just how much he fights, because he's all messed up. He just shows he'll die for us, and I definitely respect that. Him being in, it gives me a little more comfort level. He's just that raw type of dude that just lifts us up."
Gonnella walked into the Gossett team house Tuesday wearing a walking boot, which might have hinted at a long-term problem. But it probably won't be. Gonnella practiced Thursday and is probable for Saturday's game.
That shouldn't be a shock coming from someone who didn't want any aid last week.
"I initially wanted to get up and get out myself without any help," Gonnella said. "That didn't happen right away. The first thing I started thinking was 'No matter what happens, get back on the field.'"
With Gonnella, it's unwise to expect anything less.