ATLANTA -- The beating on the scoreboard wasn't as severe, but Maryland's performance against Georgia Tech yesterday was even more troubling than its debacle with Penn State.
Other than a solid first half from its normally forlorn defense, nothing went right for the Terps in a 38-0 loss to the Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium. It came a week after a 70-7 defeat to nationally ranked Penn State.
The Yellow Jackets (2-3) ended a three-game losing streak, and Maryland fell to 0-6 for the first time since the 1967 Terps went 0-9.
The run-and-shoot attack that kept the Terps in their first four games gained 421 yards and 30 first downs, but misfired in what they call the "compete zone." On seven separate possessions, Maryland had a first down at the Georgia Tech 25-yard line or better. The first five tries were pushed back by sacks of quarterback Scott Milanovich, who was dropped nine times.
Maryland was left with a scoring drought of more than six quarters and its first shutout in two seasons under coach Mark Duffner.
"We went backward instead of forward in the compete zone," said wide receiver Russ Weaver, who had eight catches for 79 yards. "The last two games we've only scored seven points, and that just can't happen. You could have the No. 1 defense in the nation, and you wouldn't win scoring one touchdown in two games."
Fortunately for Georgia Tech, it was facing a Terps defense that is rated last in Division I-A. The Yellow Jackets had been blanked in their last six quarters and their offense continued to sputter through a first half in which they led 10-0, but they broke free for 418 yards and four touchdowns in the second half. It was the most points by the Yellow Jackets since 1990, when they were co-national champions, and their most lopsided win in six years.
For the sixth straight week, Maryland allowed an opposing quarterback or running back to register a career high in yardage. This time it was Dorsey Levens, but the second-team tailback's 130 yards rushing didn't top the Yellow Jackets. Starter William Bell had 131 yards, as Georgia Tech had 411 yards on the ground and 610 total.
The Yellow Jackets' motto is "Big Days, Big Plays," but their offense was lacking at the critical moment in losses to Virginia, Clemson and Florida State, which pounded them, 51-0, a week (( earlier. Georgia Tech got the pivotal play against Maryland -- and maybe of its season -- with two minutes left in the first half.
The Maryland defense was playing surprisingly well and Georgia Tech was leading 3-0 when reserve split end Charlie Simmons, who had no career catches, ran a pattern into four Maryland defenders. Sophomore quarterback Donnie Davis hit Simmons on the numbers, and his catch and run covered 55 yards. Bell took it into the end zone from the 1 after a Maryland penalty.
The Terps got another lift from their defense after Milanovich was intercepted in the final minute of the half. The Yellow Jackets had the ball at the Terps' 35, but freshman cornerback Orlando Strozier intercepted Davis in the end zone. Defensive end Jaime Flores turned blocker and leveled one of the Yellow Jackets on the return, and Maryland felt good about itself heading into the locker room.
Maryland stopped Georgia Tech one more time to start the second half, but emotion could only carry the Terps so far. A 20-yard punt return to the Maryland 28 began the Yellow Jackets' string of four second-half touchdowns.
Maryland improved its points allowed per game average to 51.2, but saw its yards allowed average increase to 606.5. The Terps are on an NCAA record pace in both categories.
Many in the crowd of 36,218 sneaked away early to catch the Atlanta Braves beating the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League playoffs, but they missed the unexpected shutout pitched by the Yellow Jackets. It was the first time Maryland was held scoreless in 21 games, since a 34-0 loss at North Carolina two years ago.
The tenor was set on the game's first possession. Maryland, trying to establish a ground game for the first time this season, followed superback Mark Mason to the Yellow Jackets' 23. It had a second-and-eight there, but Milanovich, who came under great pressure for the first time against Penn State, was sacked. With its kicking game tattered, Maryland tried another run and pass, but couldn't get the first down.
On their third possession, the Terps had a first down at the Georgia Tech 12, but Milanovich was sacked on third down. Walk-on kicker John Milligan, in his first college field-goal attempt, was wide-right from 33 yards.
The Maryland defense got the ball right back and a Milanovich-to-Jermaine Lewis pass covered 65 yards, down to the 11. Cornerback Marlon Williams then came in from the left side untouched to sack Milanovich for a 12-yard loss on second down, and Maryland was moving backward one more time.