UM goes OT, tames Tech

Novak field goals, OT fumble recovery stun Jackets, 20-17

Terps improve to 6-0

No. 22 UM benefits from sloppy play by No. 15 Ga. Tech

October 12, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Nick Novak, who had tied the game with a 46-yard field goal on the last play of regulation, kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime, and then No. 22 Maryland recovered a Georgia Tech fumble to score a 20-17 upset of the No. 15 Yellow Jackets last night at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Maryland is now 6-0 and 4-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Georgia Tech fell to 4-2 and 1-2.

On the first possession of overtime, Novak kicked the 26-yarder to put the Terps ahead. The Yellow Jackets then had possession, but Maryland's Randall Jones recovered Joe Burns' fumble at the Terps' 25 to secure the win.

"It's kept us in some of the games," Jones said of Maryland's ability to create turnovers. "That's what we go out to do."

Said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen: "We made a lot of mistakes, and we didn't make plays when we had some opportunities, but again, we found a way to win. We beat a good football team tonight when we weren't playing our best. They didn't play their best either. We found a way, and that's all that counts for me."

Novak, who had missed a 32-yard field goal earlier in the game and who was just 4-for-11 on the season before the 46-yarder that tied the score at 17, tried to remain confident.

"You've got to keep trying. I had a lot of confidence in myself, and I felt like I needed to prove myself," Novak said of the 46-yarder. "I kept my head down and waited for the crowd to make some sort of reaction. It was a huge kick, and I knew I had to make it."

In a game pitting two of the top three offenses in the league, neither looked stellar moving the ball. But for the longest time, the Terrapins' defense - one of the league's worst last season - hindered a Yellow Jackets offense that came into the game averaging 40 points.

What's more, the Maryland unit, led by defensive coordinator Gary Blackney, did so without shedding any of the blitzing characteristics that had played a major role in its success before last night.

The first big play came on the sixth snap of the game, when linebacker E.J. Henderson picked up a Burns fumble and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown with 12:47 left in the first quarter, giving the Terps a 7-0 lead.

The next big play came just after the beginning of the second quarter. The Yellow Jackets - struggling on the ground with 26 first-half yards on 24 carries - took to the air, and quarterback George Godsey's pass was intercepted by Jones at the Maryland 32.

At this point in the game, the Terps hadn't done well at capitalizing on their opportunities, like when they got the ball at midfield only to get bogged down with penalties before failing on a fake field-goal attempt.

But after Jones' interception, Maryland went 68 yards on nine plays, getting to the end zone on an 11-yard touchdown run by Jafar Williams. On what looked like an option right with the pitch headed for Rich Parson, quarterback Shaun Hill instead flipped the ball to Williams - heading in the opposite direction - who found no defenders as Maryland took a 14-0 lead with 6:13 left in the first half.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets wandered in search of a break, which Maryland wouldn't allow. Godsey escaped a sure Leon Joe sack and appeared to have Kerry Watkins open deep, only to have Tony Okanlawon pick off the pass at the Maryland 6.

Georgia Tech, benefiting from Maryland's field position after that interception, got the ball back at the Terps' 29 with 2:56 remaining after Kelly Rhino returned a Brooks Barnard punt 22 yards. Tech moved the ball to the Maryland 6. Campbell caught a pass beyond the goal line but was out of bounds.

Then Henderson sacked Godsey, a play followed by a false start and an encroachment call that left Tech coach George O'Leary with a Luke Manget field goal as his only option. But Manget's kick from 37 yards missed as time ran out in the first half.

But every piece of magic that the Terps used to their advantage in the first half disappeared in the second half.

After an interception and a fumble in the first four minutes, Georgia Tech pulled it together for the next 19 minutes, regaining the support of most of the 40,574 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Leaning on the pass, the Yellow Jackets drove 80 yards in 10 plays, the effort culminated when Burns recovered a Will Glover fumble in the end zone, cutting Maryland's lead to 14-7 with 6:32 left in the third quarter.

Then, at the end of the third quarter, Godsey found Jonathan Smith slicing through the middle of the Terps' defense. Smith caught the pass and ran in from 25 yards to tie the game 14-14 with 14:54 left.

Any momentum Maryland gained in the first half was gone by now.

For the first time, Bruce Perry was held to fewer than 100 yards rushing as he gained 49 on 18 carries. And Tech defensive ends Nick Rogers and Greg Gathers kept constant heat on Hill, who was 20-for-39 for 206 yards and two interceptions.

Maryland 7 7 0 3 3 - 20

Georgia Tech 0 0 7 10 0 - 17

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