DURHAM, N.C. -- Maryland was down by four points on its 11-yard line with no timeouts and 24 seconds left. That's when Terps wide receiver Marcus Badgett walked into the huddle and winked at quarterback John Kaleo. Maryland had Duke just where it wanted the Blue Devils.
"We practice these type of plays at the end of practice every week," Kaleo said.
"If you don't have confidence, run two running plays, catch the bus and go back to College Park as a loser. You just gotta believe."
Oh, miracles still do exist.
Kaleo completed a 51-yard pass to Badgett and on the next play heaved a 38-yard "Hail Mary" touchdown pass to Badgett in the right corner of the end zone as time expired to lift Maryland over Duke, 27-25, yesterday at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The touchdown touched off a wild celebration by the Terps in front of a stunned homecoming crowd of 17,850, which had seen Duke rally from a 21-13 deficit.
But if there was one picture that truly captured the moment of yesterday's victory, it was Maryland coach Mark Duffner, his arms upright and palms opened, being mobbed by his players as he looked toward the heavens.
"I was going wild, it was just a feeling of euphoria," Duffner said.
"I lost my watch, and I think I had a 40-inch vertical jump. I tried to squeeze every guy wearing a white jersey until they popped. )) We aren't going to let go of this feeling for a long time."
The victory was the first ACC win of the season for the Terps (2-6, 1-4), who had lost eight straight conference games dating to last season. Duke (2-5, 0-4) is still winless in the ACC.
The victory also saved big performances by Kaleo and Badgett. Kaleo passed for 378 yards by completing 30 of 45 passes, and Badgett had 218 yards on nine receptions.
Certainly, Badgett's two late receptions, and another 50-yard "Hail Mary" touchdown pass in the second quarter, will have Maryland fans clamoring for a while.
Maryland started the winning drive on its 11.
On first down, Kaleo overthrew wide receiver Wade Inge. A play later, Kaleo tried to pass to Badgett along the right sideline. The pass was short and dropped by left cornerback Jamal Ellis, who almost intercepted it. If he had, he probably would have scored a touchdown.
On third down, Maryland set three wide receivers to the left and only Badgett to the right to get single coverage.
The move caused Duke to rotate its defense to the left, but Kaleo threw 51 yards to Badgett down the right sideline.
Badgett leaped over Ellis to make the catch at the Duke 38 with four seconds left.
The next play, one that Maryland practices every Thursday, was designed for Badgett to run across the middle and tip the ball into the end zone possibly to another receiver.
Instead, Badgett never heard the call in the huddle. He went to the line of scrimmage thinking he's supposed to run the same route again. As Kaleo dropped back, he looked for Badgett across the middle.
Badgett wasn't there.
He then threw to Badgett in the right corner of the end zone. Ellis had diagnosed the play well, getting inside position on Badgett, but Ellis fell moments before the ball dropped into the arms of Badgett.
Where were the rest of Duke's defenders?
"I saw all of Duke's defenders crowding toward the middle, so I thought John noticed I had single coverage," Badgett said.
"We worked on a set play in practice, but I read it wrong. I was just focusing on the ball, not the defender. I think he got a little too anxious and kind of slipped. We had no contact.
"I thought the ball went up and touched the clouds. It's the type of catch I wanted, a football thrown into a basketball jump-ball situation. This feeling doesn't get any better than this.
"It's the kind of play you practice when you're a little kid, but it never happens," Badgett said.
Kaleo agreed. But he didn't know it would hurt so much. He got hit as the ball was released. As soon as Badgett made the catch, he was having a conversation with the player who decked him.
They were both on the ground.
"I looked at him and he looked at me, and I said, 'Can you believe this [stuff]?' " Kaleo said.
"He was ticked, and I was happy. Ninety yards in three plays. Unbelievable stuff."
No one seemed more disturbed and frustrated than Ellis and Duke coach Barry Wilson. Ellis was in good position to make the play. And Wilson had to be second-guessing himself for allowing Badgett, the Terps' top receiver, to draw only single coverage.
"Somebody pushed me in the back," said Ellis, who said he dropped the interception because of a broken thumb. "It may have been one of my teammates, but somebody pushed me."
Wilson said: "It was an awfully disappointing loss. We had the game won and didn't know how to close it. Those last few plays, our secondary was just standing there waiting for someone else to make the play."
Someone did. It was Badgett and Kaleo for the second time.
The first came with 5:14 left in the half. Kaleo threw an ugly, high, 50-yard pass down the left sideline, and this time left cornerback Keith DuBose fell. Badgett made the reception at about the 3, then faked strong safety Gavin Gray for the touchdown.
"Marcus deserves all the credit for that one," Kaleo said. "That was the ugliest touchdown pass thrown in Division I football today. That was a quacker."
But it worked, and now the Terps would like to build on this type of game. They have had a lot of bad breaks and tough losses this season, including fives losses that occurred after having a lead in the fourth period.
"Our theme for the week was, 'It's about time,' " Duffner said.
"Our kids showed a lot of poise and character. When you're struggling, you need a win like this. Regardless of everything that has happened this season, they have always believed."