Maryland wins bit of respect in 31-19 loss to No. 12 Virginia 'Much better' Terps fumble away upset bid with costly turnovers

September 13, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- On a steaming-hot, late-summer afternoon, Maryland's young football team flirted with a major upset against No. 12 Virginia yesterday and wiped out some of the misery of its 1997 season.

The Cavaliers, loaded with talent at every position, held off the charged-up Terps for a 31-19 victory, but Virginia coach George Welsh said, "We don't win if we don't get those turnovers," referring to two key second-quarter fumbles by Maryland.

"Give Maryland credit. That's a much better football team than it was a year ago even though they're young."

While Virginia's cast of All-Americans and near All-Americans, led by senior safety Anthony Poindexter (18 tackles), was signing autographs outside the locker room after the game, the no-name Maryland players talked about how close they came to a win.

"We were this close to winning," Terps linebacker Eric Barton said as he held his hands six inches apart. "Our offensive line opened the big holes, and our defense was doing some hitting. We'll be back next week to show we're for real."

Barton had 15 tackles and seemed to be near the ball all day for the Terps (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

"I think we were even closer than 'this close' to winning," said sophomore tailback LaMont Jordan. "We were right there and just let it slip away."

Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden said, "They knew they were in a football game. If we don't turn the ball over, I think we get out of here with a win. If you take away the sack yardage [six for 46 yards against Ken Mastrole], we probably rushed for 230 yards against a team that gave up only 18 yards against Auburn last week."

With Jordan spinning and weaving his way through the big Virginia defenders for 88 yards on 23 carries, Maryland racked up 188 net rushing yards, one week after gaining just 42 in its 23-15 win over Division I-AA James Madison.

Jordan, making his 1998 debut after missing the opener with a foot injury, was a force in the 93-degree temperatures. He also caught three passes for 31 yards.

"I don't think anybody realizes the magnitude of handling the ball 26 times in this heat like LaMont did," Vanderlinden said.

Jordan's partners in the rather shocking rushing show were fullback Matt Kalapinski, tailback Harold Westley and backup fullback Kenny Rogers.

Kalapinski rushed eight times for 87 yards, Westley had 12 carries for 55 yards and one touchdown, and Rogers scored the first touchdown of his career on a 4-yard run late in the third quarter that reduced Virginia's lead to 24-16.

Two Maryland fumbles led to 10 Virginia points in the second quarter, when the Cavaliers scored 17 points to erase a 3-0 first-quarter deficit.

Tyree Foreman's 2-yard run early in the second quarter gave Virginia a 7-3 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the Terps' Cliff Crosby was stripped by Virginia's Duane Fisher, and Aaron Brooks connected with Kevin Coffey for a 29-yard scoring strike two plays later.

Maryland was trying to mount a drive late in the first half when Poindexter knocked the ball loose from Mastrole. That turnover led to Todd Braverman's 35-yard field goal 18 seconds before halftime.

The Terps sandwiched two third-quarter touchdowns around Foreman's 28-yard scoring catch, then pulled to 24-19 early in the fourth quarter on Brian Kopka's 25-yard field goal. But Virginia staged a methodical, 10-play, 80-yard drive to put the game away, helped by two critical third-down plays.

Maryland's defense shut off Brooks' primary receiver on third-and-seven at the Virginia 38 with nine minutes left. But the Cavaliers' line held, Brooks scrambled and Coffey ran back to him to catch a 16-yard pass.

Virginia (2-0, 1-0) then faced third-and-two with 8: 04 left, but Maryland was called for offside, giving the Cavaliers a first down. Two plays later, Jones made a 21-yard dash down the right sideline for a touchdown and a 12-point advantage with 7: 37 left.

"We knew we had to score," Jones said. "If we didn't, they could have [gone] up on us."

Vanderlinden said, "That touchdown made it really tough for us after that. But I think we proved to ourselves we can be a good football team. I'm impressed by the way our players have come together. I'm impressed with their attitude this year."

In addition to the offside penalty and two costly turnovers, Vanderlinden said his team was hurt by a holding penalty late in the first quarter that nullified a 29-yard touchdown run by Jordan.

The call came after Jordan already had gained 11 yards, and it set Maryland back 10 yards to the Virginia 28.

"I want to take a close look at that call again," Vanderlinden said. "I mean, we're running for a touchdown and we're called for holding down the field."

However, it will stand as a loss, and no one was more disappointed than Maryland nose tackle Delbert Cowsette.

"I was upset after the game," Cowsette said. "I don't believe in moral victories. It's tough to lose when you know you could have won."

Besides Poindexter's one-man defensive performance, Virginia was led by senior quarterback Brooks (16-for-26, 225 yards, two touchdown passes), Jones (17 carries, 78 yards) and wide receiver Terence Wilkins (four catches, 67 yards).

"Maybe Maryland is a good team after all, maybe we're not as good as we thought we are," Poindexter said. "You never know. But we shut them down when we had to. They got points on us; we got the 'W.' That's the bottom line."

NOTES: Virginia beat Maryland for the seventh straight time, the longest winning streak in a series that dates to 1919. The Cavaliers also have beaten the Terps in four straight meetings in Charlottesville for the first time in school history.

Next for Maryland

Opponent: No. 20 West Virginia

Site: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va.

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Record: 0-1

Yesterday: Idle

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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