Cavs break Terps' heart

TD pass in last 0: 26 reduces UM to tears as bowl bid lost, 34-30

Jordan runs for record 306

Defeat is `devastating' after 17-0 deficit erased

November 21, 1999|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- For Maryland, the view of a crushing 34-30 loss to Virginia yesterday will leave an indelible impression on anybody who was associated with this football game.

Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden nearly broke down twice while delivering his post-game talk.

Junior tailback LaMont Jordan, whose school-record 306 rushing yards were wiped out by a Virginia touchdown pass in the last half-minute, was sobbing as he left the Byrd Stadium field.

"This is the most devastating loss I've ever been involved in," said Vanderlinden, whose coaching career dates to 1978 and includes a Rose Bowl loss to Southern California and a Citrus Bowl loss to Tennessee while an assistant at Northwestern. "LaMont Jordan is one of the great players in all of America. He was clearly the best player on the field. He was asking for the ball one time on third-and-two, and he made it on sheer determination and courage."

Even after 37 carries and two touchdowns, and Maryland's rally from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit, Jordan did not taste victory.

Given a reprieve by a Maryland mental error on its last possession, Virginia drove 76 yards in nine plays in 46 seconds for a game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass from Dan Ellis to Billy McMullen with 26 seconds left, knocking the Terps (5-6) out of their first postseason trip since 1990.

A win probably would have sent the Terps off to the Aloha Bowl because its primary competitor for that game, North Carolina State, lost to East Carolina yesterday.

"We can't stop anybody most of the time and our opponents can't stop us most of the time. It's a different viewpoint of college football right now," said Virginia coach George Welsh, whose Cavaliers (7-4, 5-3) are likely headed to the Micron PC bowl.

Jordan easily won the battle of celebrated running backs, as Virginia's Heisman Trophy candidate Thomas Jones was held to 91 yards rushing and no touchdowns. Jones entered the game as the No. 1 rusher in the country (170.7 yards a game) and Jordan was No. 6 (132.6 a game).

With 1,798 yards, Jones did break the ACC single-season record set in 1970 by former Baltimore Colt Don McCauley of North Carolina.

Jordan also established a Maryland single-season rushing record with 1,632 yards, which is the best season ever by an ACC junior.

He left the field battered and beaten four times throughout this emotional duel, once dashing off to the locker room to get ice on his shoulder, and he kept coming back for more. It was almost as if Jordan was filming one of those sports movies where the hero always comes out on top.

"I wish it would have been a movie -- Maryland would have won," said Jordan, whose team lost four straight and five of its past six to end the season.

"I'm tired, hurt and beat up," added a despondent Jordan, whose 90-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the longest run against Virginia since Navy's Joe Bellino had a 90-yarder in 1960. "For four weeks we've been looking for that winning season. Now we've got to go a whole year thinking about what could have and what should have been."

Maryland was on the verge of beating Virginia with 1: 40 left, when the Terps held a 30-27 lead and took over the ball on their 37-yard line.

A 22-yard field goal by Brian Kopka had pushed the Terps ahead 30-27 with 5: 18 left in the game.

Good clock management or a first down was all Maryland needed to wrap up the outcome after it had stopped Virginia on a fourth-and-four at the Maryland 37.

But suddenly some strange things began happening.

First Jordan slipped on the turf and lost 1 yard. "It was just one of those things that happen in football," Jordan said.

Virginia took the first of its two remaining timeouts.

Jordan then gained 2 yards up the middle and Virginia called its final timeout with 1: 27 on the clock.

What happened next was probably the play that hurt Maryland most.

On third-and-eight, Maryland quarterback-turned-safety- turned-quarterback again Randall Jones (who replaced struggling starter Latrez Harrison with 5: 03 left in the first quarter) ran an option play to the short side of the field and saw himself suddenly in danger of going out of bounds. The Frederick native tried to cut back, but Virginia's Maurice Anderson bumped him out of bounds, stopping the clock and costing Maryland at least 40 to 42 precious seconds.

The Terps lost the seven to nine seconds it would have taken to get the ball reset, the 25 seconds they could have used in taking a delay-of-game penalty before punting, and the seven to eight seconds it took to punt the ball to the Cavaliers.

If Maryland had killed those 42 seconds, Virginia would have received the ball with only 45 seconds remaining and it took the Cavaliers 46 seconds to put the winning touchdown on the board.

"It's kind of the story of our season," said Maryland senior tight end John Waerig, whose dream of a trip to Hawaii had been crushed. "This loss is nobody's fault. I'm still in shock. It hasn't hit me yet."

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