Maryland answers Ga. Tech challenge

October 23, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- How's this for progress?

Last Oct. 9, Maryland crawled out of Atlanta with an 0-6 record after a 38-0 loss to a mediocre Georgia Tech team.

The Yellow Jackets have since slid into the Atlantic Coast Conference cellar, but when they came back from a 14-3 second-quarter deficit to create a tie midway through the third quarter at Byrd Stadium last night, they appeared ready to live up to their billing as two-point favorites over the Terps.

Maryland had other ideas, however. The Terps answered the Yellow Jackets' challenge with three touchdowns in an eight-minute span, and made enough big plays to record a 42-27 ACC victory before 30,429.

It began a three-game homestand and kept alive Maryland's hopes for only its second winning season since 1985. The Teps expect to move to .500 on Saturday against Tulane.

It was the first victory under the lights for Maryland (3-4, 2-4) since the Terps got coach Mark Duffner his first Division I-A win two years ago against Pitt, and it surpassed last year's total of two wins. Georgia Tech (1-6, 0-5) stayed in the ACC basement with Wake Forest.

Junior quarterback Scott Milanovich, perhaps buoyed by the presence of Boomer Esiason, whose career records he is trying to surpass, had his best game of the season, completing 22 of 31 passes for 302 yards and the fifth four-touchdown game of his career.

Kevin Foley had played more than Milanovich in three of Maryland's first six games, but Milanovich came out only when Brian Cummings ran the short-yardage offense. With Milanovich, the Terps went exclusively with the one-back, four-wide receiver set he prefers.

"We're getting back to what we did last year," said Milanovich, who set Terps records for passing yards and touchdowns as a sophomore, but struggled this September. "Four wide-outs, with tight end, might not be that diverse, but it works."

It was easily Milanovich's best performance of the season. Georgia Tech, conversely, played down the stretch with a quarterback who began the season third on the depth chart, and the two times the Terps intercepted senior Graham Stroman broke open a close game.

The Terps clung to a 21-14 lead late in the third quarter when Georgia Tech quarterback Tommy Luginbill left with a mild concussion. With reserve quarterback Donnie Davis shifted to wide receiver two weeks ago, Stroman came in and moved the Yellow Jackets to the Maryland 24-yard line. But on fourth-and-five at the 28, his sideline pass was deflected from cornerback Darrick Rather to cornerback A. J. Johnson.

Four plays after Johnson's 39-yard return, Cummings got his third rushing touchdown of the season on a 1-yard dive for a 28-14 lead with 11:59 to go.

Two plays later, reserve safety Lamont Gore, in on a nickel package, picked off another Stroman pass and took it 17 yards to the Yellow Jackets' 10. Milanovich tossed a short pass to Allen Williams on second down, and the 10-yard touchdown play made it 35-14 with 9:54 left.

Williams had 103 yards rushing on 20 carries and caught four passes for 26 yards.

"It felt great," Milanovich said. "I thought we were going to be able to sit back and enjoy one, until they came right back with their 80-yard touchdown. Something like that snaps you back to attention. To be honest, it scared me."

Georgia Tech made all the Terps uneasy when tailback C. J. Williams turned Stroman's swing pass into an 80-yard touchdown on first down that trimmed the difference to 35-21 with 9:33 to go, but Maryland calmed down and broke a five-game losing streak to the Yellow Jackets.

A 65-yard drive and touchdown with 1:07 left allowed Georgia Tech to out-gain Maryland, 509-470. It was still the Terps' second-highest output of the season, and for a change, it was the opposition that padded its total against a prevent defense.

Georgia Tech moved 79 yards with the opening kickoff, but stalled at the Terps' 1 and settled for a 19-yard field goal by Chris Leone.

Maryland's defense hadn't stopped anyone since Oct. 1, when it played admirably at Clemson, but it shut down the Yellow Jackets on their next four possessions. The resolve was necessary, because the Terps had trouble holding onto the ball in the first half, when they lost three fumbles.

With Milanovich slickly operating the Maryland offense, the Terps moved 82, 80 and 58 yards on their first three possessions, but the first went for naught when Cummings mishandled the snap, and Tech's Ron Rogers recovered on the 4.

The short-yardage offense made amends when freshman Buddy Rodgers ran 4 yards for a 7-3 lead.

On Maryland's next possession, Milanovich's shovel pass to redshirt freshman Brian Underwood went 15 yards to the Yellow Jackets' 13. Two plays later, Milanovich had nearly five seconds in the pocket, and that gave Jermaine Lewis enough time to come free in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown catch.

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