WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Brian Cummings can pitch relief, too.
The starting quarterback during Maryland's improbable run to a 4-0 start and a No. 17 ranking, Cummings came off the bench in the second quarter when Scott Milanovich struggled at Wake Forest last night, and helped the Terps pull out a 9-6 victory before 19,107 at Groves Stadium.
Maryland (5-1, 3-1) was picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference, primarily because Milanovich was suspended for four games for gambling and his replacement was Cummings, a redshirt sophomore who has thrown plenty for the Terps' baseball team, but was a third-string quarterback a year ago.
Cummings played the last 39 minutes, completed 20 of 30 passes for 222 yards and guided the Terps on three crucial drives, which resulted in a field goal, a touchdown and one last series that ate up more than eight minutes down the stretch.
"We needed a little lift, and Brian provided that," said coach Mark Duffner, who would not say Cummings had regained his starting job. "There was no set plan, no magic to it. The offense wasn't moving and we weren't in sync."
The symbol of Maryland's resurgence, Cummings didn't take an offensive snap in a 31-3 loss at Georgia Tech Sept. 28 that tumbled the Terps out of the Top 25. He was sidelined by Milanovich's return and his own injuries, which included a broken big toe on his right foot, a bruised shoulder and the after-effects of a sprained ankle that knocked him out of the opener.
Last night Cummings said the toe was "killing me," but the rest of him felt just fine.
"It's a good feeling," Cummings said of the cheers that erupted among the several hundred Maryland fans when he began warming up with the Terps down 3-0 five minutes into the second quarter. "I heard them, but I don't know why they're clapping. It's good to write about, but it's not good for a football team."
Several accomplishments were brushed aside in the latest episode of the Terps' ongoing quarterback controversy.
The outcome gave Maryland its most wins in four seasons under Duffner, and its most in the ACC since 1990. Top-ranked Florida State is the only unbeaten team in the ACC, and the Terps have two weeks to prepare for an Oct. 21 homecoming date vs. Clemson.
Maryland would not have won without another solid game from its defense, which gave up a season-low 209 yards and came up with two interceptions, the second by Ratcliff Thomas at midfield with 27 seconds left that clinched the 10th straight ACC loss at home for Wake Forest (1-5, 0-3).
It was the fewest points allowed by the Terps in their last 47 games, and as stingy as they've been since a 1989 shutout of North Carolina.
The Demon Deacons were two-touchdown underdogs, but they made Milanovich's second game nearly as miserable as his first. Milanovich is the most prolific passer in Terps history, but he again had difficulty reading the blitz and the offense mustered just 41 yards and three first downs in its first four possessions.
When Milanovich sandwiched two incompletions around a sack by nickel back DaLawn Parrish, a true freshman from Howard High, Maryland had gone 15 straight possessions under Milanovich without a touchdown. Cummings was told to warm up.
Brian Underwood's fumble had given Wake Forest an easy path to a 3-0 lead, but things immediately began going Maryland's way. Cornerback A. J. Johnson made his fifth interception, an ACC high, and Cummings got the Terps down to the Demon Deacons' 32-yard line, before Joe O'Donnell missed a 49-yard field-goal try.
The Terps finally scored on their next series, but it wasn't easy.
A 46-yard punt return by Jermaine Lewis was wiped away by one of their six penalties, so the offense started at its own 7. Cummings drove the Terps 91 yards in nine plays, before they were stopped at the Demon Deacons' 2 and O'Donnell kicked a 19-yard field goal for a 3-3 halftime tie.
Maryland took the second-half kickoff and drove 72 yards, for what proved to be the winning points, a 1-yard touchdown dive by sophomore Buddy Rodgers out of Black Thunder, the short-yardage offense that was directed by Cummings for the first time this season. Along the way, Richie Roberts and Mancel Johnson turned short passes into gains of 18 and 23 yards, respectively.
O'Donnell missed the extra point left, but Maryland had a 9-3 lead with 8:51 to go in the third quarter. Wake Forest closed to within three points on a field goal by Bill Hollows with 9:10 left, but Cummings took the Terps on a 71-yard drive that ate up more than eight minutes.
On fourth-and-eight from the Demon Deacons' 8, Duffner called for another pass rather than risk a blocked field goal or big kickoff return. The call displayed the confidence he has in the defense.
The confidence the rest of the team has in Cummings, meanwhile, was just as plausible.
"When Brian came in, we moved the ball," said Lewis, who had seven catches for 87 yards. "Since Brian has won four games in a row, the team has rallied around him."
Milanovich left with five completions in 12 attempts for 33 yards, and declined to comment after the game. He took out his frustration on a couple of punts, but he didn't come back to Maryland to play special teams.
Next for Maryland
Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park
When: Oct. 21, 1:30 p.m.
2& Yesterday: Lost to Georgia, 19-17.