Reich replay is joy for fellow ex-Terps

KEN ROSAENTHAL

January 05, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Stan Gelbaugh had just walked in the door when the phone rang. It was Tony Edwards, his former Maryland teammate. "We're sitting there, talking on the telephone, watching the game, laughing," Edwards said. "We were saying, 'Look at this, he's going to do it again!' "

Jess Atkinson, Frank Reich's roommate at Maryland, couldn't tear himself away from the television in his kitchen. "At halftime, I was thinking, 'I can go play with my kid.' " the former place-kicker said. "But then I thought, 'I shouldn't do that. I've been through this once before.' "

Greg Hill was listening to the radio while managing a Roy Rogers in College Park. "I called my wife and she said, 'Do you believe they came back?' I told her I had once been in a similar game. She said, 'No, no, no.' Later on that night, they showed it on ESPN. She called me back and said, 'It's true! It's true!' "

Hill was the wide receiver who caught two second-half touchdown passes when Reich engineered the greatest comeback in major college football history in 1984. Like so many of the players on that Maryland team, he could sense history repeating itself Sunday.

Indeed, the parallels between Maryland's 42-40 upset of No. 6 Miami and Buffalo's 41-38 playoff victory over Houston are almost eerie -- and not simply because both turnarounds were directed by Reich, a starting quarterback only one year at Maryland, and a career backup in the NFL.

How's this for spooky? Miami's Bernie Kosar completed 30 of 50 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns in the loss to Maryland. Houston's Warren Moon completed 36 of 50 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns in the loss to Buffalo.

Reich's team trailed by 31 points in the greatest college comeback, 32 points in the greatest pro comeback. His second-half statistics also were remarkably similar -- 12-for-15 for 260 yards and three TDs against Miami, 16-for-23 for 230 yards and four TDs against Buffalo.

The major difference, of course, is that Reich didn't start the game against Miami -- he replaced Gelbaugh. Picky, picky. "I don't care what Frank said. I know he was thinking about it the whole game," Hill said.

So, of course, were his former teammates. Edwards, an offensive tackle on the '84 team, was listening to his car radio as he drove home to Silver Spring from his beach house in Virginia. As far as he was concerned, the outcome was never in doubt.

"I was telling my wife when the Oilers went up 28-3 at halftime, 'Don't worry, that's nothing, I've seen him do this before,' " said Edwards, who is now a salesman for a window manufacturer and an assistant football coach at Watkins Mills High School.

"She was laughing. By the time we unpacked the kids and unpacked the car, I turned the TV on and it was 35-10. I said, 'Heck, he's on his way back.' "

Edwards called Gelbaugh when it was 35-31. They were still talking when Gelbaugh -- a former Bill who now plays for the Seattle Seahawks -- called the go-ahead score, a 17-yard pass from Reich to Andre Reed. "As soon as the ball was snapped, he said, 'Touchdown!' " Edwards said. "It was hilarious."

Gelbaugh is the forgotten man of the 1984 game, the quarterback who fell behind 31-0 at halftime. But as former Maryland coach Bobby Ross said, "It wasn't that Stan was doing anything wrong." Kosar was just "in the zone" -- the same mysterious place Moon entered Sunday.

"I just remembered we couldn't do anything right in the first half," Gelbaugh said. "Coach Ross lit us up at halftime, which was exactly what we needed. Most everyone was out of the locker room when he walked up and said, 'Frank, you're going to play the second half.' The rest is history."

Then, as now, the Miami players talked trash, starting from the moment Maryland entered the Orange Bowl. "They were saying, 'You're out of your league. You don't belong on the field with us. You're on our home turf, we'll show you how to play,' " guard Lenny Lynch recalled.

Anything else?

"You can't write it," Edwards said.

"Put blank-blank-blank," Hill said.

Whatever, the Terps came back.

And Sunday, their old buddy Frank was at it again.

"You're talking to me now, and I'm as giddy as I can possibly be," Atkinson said. "It brings up all the memories. No one ever thought it could happen, yet it happened to us, and it happened again. It levels you.

"I saw Frank on the 'Today Show.' He couldn't stop grinning. He's just sitting back and enjoying the feeling. It's a feeling you wish everyone could have once in their lifetime. And here's Frank, he's felt it twice."

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