Terps fail to finish off Syracuse, 21-16

November 20, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A second crushing loss in three games wasn't the deja vu Maryland had in mind.

Down 21-0 in the second quarter to Syracuse yesterday, the Terps rallied to within five and were confident they could cover 69 yards in the final 1:26 and post their third improbable comeback in as many seasons.

There wasn't another miracle for Maryland, however, as the Orangemen turned back the Terps' final drive and sent them out of the Carrier Dome and into the cold with a season-ending 21-16 defeat.

Maryland (4-7) finished with a three-game losing streak -- all to bowl-bound teams -- but coach Mark Duffner will stress to his returning players how close they came to winning two of those games.

Two weeks ago, the Terps lost to North Carolina State on a last-minute field goal. Last week, they folded in the second half at Virginia. The ineffectual, unfocused play carried over to yesterday, as Syracuse (7-3) scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and the Maryland offense struggled early. But the Terps dominated the final 39 minutes and began the game's climactic possession with a good feeling.

Offensive tackle Steve Ingram recalled an October day two years ago when Maryland moved 87 yards in the last 13 seconds to beat Duke. Quarterback Scott Milanovich was buoyed by a more recent rally.

"I was thinking that it reminded me a whole lot of the end of last year," said Milanovich, who brought the Terps back from a 23-point deficit at Wake Forest in their 1993 finale. "The defense played their hearts out in the second half, and everyone was optimistic. We thought we'd go down the field and win it."

Milanovich had passed for a touchdown in the third quarter, a Duffner gamble had produced another in the fourth, and when Orlando Mare's 48-yard field-goal attempt went wide right, Maryland's maligned defense left with its fifth straight stop and the offense set up shop at the Orange 31 with 1:26 to go.

Three short passes moved the Terps to the Syracuse 45 with 59 seconds left, but Maryland was then hit with its seventh and most costly penalty. Right guard Dave Hack was called for holding, and instead of Allen Williams' gain being a first down at ++ the Orange 35, Maryland had a first-and-21 at its own 45.

A false start pushed the Terps back 5 more yards. Milanovich threw three incompletions before his Hail Mary pass was intercepted at the Syracuse 10 by Bryce Bevill on the game's final play.

The flag thrown at Hack was one of several what-ifs the Maryland offense was left to ponder.

Down 14-0 early in the second quarter, Milanovich just missed an open Mancel Johnson and a 79-yard touchdown.

On the next-to-last play of the first half, Milanovich threw a jump ball into the right corner of the end zone. A diving Russ Weaver had both hands on the tipped pass before it squirted onto the synthetic turf.

It was that kind of day -- and season -- for Maryland, as the Terps came up short one more time in the final collegiate game for a senior class that includes Hack, Weaver, Williams and Ingram, one of the best offensive lineman ever to come though College Park.

"I feel empty for the seniors, but I'm extremely proud of the effort we made in coming back," said Duffner, whose three-year record dropped to 9-24. "The clock kind of ran out on us."

Some of the 1,000 or so Maryland fans among the 48,309 in attendance probably hoped the clock would run a little faster in ++ the first half, after Syracuse drove 72, 80 and 60 yards for touchdowns the first three times it had the ball.

The Orangemen hadn't been in the end zone in four weeks, but they needed just four minutes to get their first score, a 17-yard pass from Kevin Mason to Marvin Harrison. Mason would complete just two more passes, as tailback Kirby Dar Dar backed up his guarantee of a Syracuse victory with a career-high 159 yards rushing.

Maryland's prospects were dimmest when Dar Dar's 2-yard run made it 21-0 with 9:18 to go in the first half, but the Terp offense got a 28-yard field goal from Joe O'Donnell and the defense got an interception and a fumble recovery.

After the third-quarter recovery, Maryland's offense produced its first scoring drive in five quarters, as Milanovich connected with Jermaine Lewis on a down and out from the Orange 25.

The Terps needed a 15-play, seven-minute drive that included some trickery to get within a touchdown. On fourth-and-seven at their 49, Milanovich set up in punt formation, but the ball was snapped to Brian Cummings, and the short-yardage quarterback sneaked 17 yards.

Five plays later, Cummings rolled right and got the game's final ++ points on a 2-yard scamper with 7:19 to go. The run-and-shoot offense re-entered for a two-point conversion attempt that would have got the Terps within a field goal, but Milanovich couldn't connect with Geroy Simon.

Syracuse took over, but a holding penalty wiped out a sizable Mason gain on fourth-and-one at the Maryland 22, and Mare's missed field-goal attempt kept the deficit at five points.

"One last drive, with the chance to win the game," Milanovich said. "It's what you dream about."

There are no sweet dreams for the Terps, however, just the memories of an effort that wasn't enough to gain the latest Maryland miracle.

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