WINSTON SALEM, N.C. -- This was supposed to have been a breather for the University of Maryland. Instead, it came close to taking the air out of the Terps for the remainder of the 1991 season.
Maryland quarterback Jim Sandwisch completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to H-back Frank Wycheck with 1 minute, 34 seconds left in the game to allow the injury-marred Terps to escape with a 23-22 victory over Wake Forest yesterday before 17,342 at Groves Stadium. Maryland went for two points, sending Troy Jackson wide right, and he was stopped.
The Terps squelched Wake Forest's final drive at the Demon Deacons' 27-yard line when linebacker Mike Jarmolowich tackled tailback John Leach after a 2-yard gain on a screen pass with 53 seconds left.
Losing to Wake Forest (1-5, 0-3) would have been a massive embarrassment for the Terps (2-4, 2-1), who had lost four in a row. But Maryland had not lost here since 1979, and Wake Forest had lost 14 straight league games. Also, the Terps ripped Wake Forest, 41-13, a year ago.
"I hate to think of the consequences if we had lost," said Maryland coach Joe Krivak. "We're dealing with 18- and 19-year-old kids. I've been around for a long time, and I've got to talk to myself sometimes to bounce back after a loss."
But instead of a somber mood, the Terps were celebrating. The win was sparked by a 16-point second half rally by Maryland, which had trailed, 19-7, at the half. It was the most points by the Terps this season and took some of the luster off the effort of Wake Forest kicker Mike Green, who set a school record with field goals of 29, 22, 44, 43 and 19 yards.
But the field goals, and confusion on a Maryland holding penalty late in the game, turned out to be Wake Forest's downfall, as the Demon Deacons led by 22-15 when Maryland took possession at its 20 with 3:06 left in the game.
Four plays later, Maryland faced a third-and-eight at its 45, but Sandwisch overthrew wide-out Marcus Badget. The Terps were called for holding, but Wake Forest took the play. Intead of third and long, Maryland faced a fourth-and-eight. Sandwisch lofted a 20-yard pass over the middle to Badgett to the Wake Forest 35.
On the next play, Sandwisch, under pressure from defensive end xTC Maurice Miller, lofted another pass to Wycheck, who had beaten linebacker Mike Neubesier one-on-one. Wycheck caught the pass at the 5, broke Neubesier's tackle and ran in for the touchdown.
Wycheck, who ran a fly pattern on the play, said: "That play had been open all day. I told Jimmy to keep looking, and he saw me run past the linebacker. I was definitely going to get in that end zone, I haven't scored since the opening game of 1990."
"I never saw the catch," said Sandwisch, whom Krivak considered benching after the first half, when he completed six of 15 passes for 102 yards. "I just saw him break past the linebacker and put it up there. I heard the crowd cheering while I was on the ground, and got up in time to see Frank going into the end zone.
"This was a big win for us. We told ourselves that we couldn't lose to Wake Forest. If we had lost, we really would have slipped back. We needed to gain some confidence, especially with our remaining schedule."
It was a game of big plays, and the one decision that Wake Forest coach Bill Dooley wanted a chance to make again was on the holding call.
"We told the players to take the penalty, and I don't know who in the hell changed it," said Dooley, who set a conference record by coaching in his 174th game yesterday. "One of the officials changed it. We definitely should have accepted it, not declined it.
"There were so many turning points in that ballgame, it would be hard to pick out the one which hurt us the most. When you're ahead, you've got to go on and win the ball game. In all my 174 games in the conference, this may be the worst one I've seen."
It wasn't pretty from Maryland's standpoint, either. The Terps defense gave up 443 yards of total offense, and that "soft" zone secondary gave up a 66-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Keith West to split end Todd Dixon with 7:10 left in the second quarter for a 13-7 Wake Forest lead. In the past three games, Maryland's secondary has given up touchdown passes of 49, 82, 58 and 66 yards.
Maryland's offense was just as ugly in the first half, when the Terps gained 162 yards of offense, 11 in the first quarter when Sandwisch didn't complete any of his five passes.
The Terps didn't get a first down until there was 11:51 left in the half. They also blew a scoring opportunity when kicker Dan DeArmas' 32-yard field goal went wide left barely three minutes into the game after outside linebacker Mark Sturdivant recovered a fumble at the Wake Forest 19.
"As you can tell, we're still not a good football team," said Krivak, who was without nine of his first-and second-team players due to injuries. "We're still patching things up. But the best thing is that the kids didn't quit, and it would have been very easy for them to do so.