Down 20, then euphoria

Terps score 28 straight points to shock Cavaliers

Maryland 28 Virginia 26

October 15, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Not even a concrete wall could quell the bedlam resonating from the visiting team's locker room yesterday at Scott Stadium. Although his words were muffled, the emotion in coach Ralph Friedgen's voice was clear, and his post-game victory speech was soon replaced by booming baritones singing the Maryland "Victory Song."

The players and coaches barked out "M-A-R-Y-L-A-N-D" in unison, the finale to a celebration of their 28-26 come-from-behind win at Virginia - the program's first victory here since 1990. After trailing by 20 points at halftime, it was a monumental accomplishment for a program that struggled the past two seasons to catch any breaks, and to create its own.

Now, midway through the season, the Terps are 4-2, just two wins shy of eligibility for their first bowl appearance since 2003.

"I've been saying all along we had to win a big game," Friedgen said. "This game got even bigger when you're 20 points down. It's tough - you're banging your head day in and day out up against the wall and not seeing anything for it.

"I'm going to tell you, in the locker room it was euphoric," he said. "I was going nuts, the coaches were going nuts, the kids were going nuts. ... It was such a release."

With yet another game on the line, and much of it out of his hands when Virginia had the ball and a chance to tie the score at 28 with 2:37 left in the fourth quarter, Friedgen reached into his pants pocket and grasped for his rosary.

"That's what I was thinking," he said. "I was praying."

And because senior cornerback Josh Wilson was covering receiver Kevin Ogletree, Virginia's two-point conversion attempt failed.

"Now we know we can go out there and compete every day," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "We were down 20-0. A lot of people would've went into the tank, but we kept fighting, coaches kept believing, we kept believing. ... We went out there and took care of business like we knew we were capable of."

It was the opposite performance from a week ago, when the Terps actually played better football in the first three quarters but lost their lead to Georgia Tech in the fourth quarter.

For the first three quarters yesterday, the Terps seemed doomed.

In the first home start for Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell, the Cavaliers gained more yards of total offense in the first half (255) than they were averaging this season (232). Sewell had 243 yards and two touchdowns on 13-for-21 passing, and ran for 92 yards and one touchdown. Ogletree finished with a game-high 133 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just three catches.

Before today's game, Virginia's longest play of the season was a 34-yard pass. In the first half, the Cavaliers made four longer plays, including a 58-yard interception return by Marcus Hamilton that led to a field goal.

"When we came into the locker room, Coach was like, `Keep your head up,'" receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. "And I was like, in this situation you really can't. We were down 20-0. I was like, how can I get pumped about coming back out there? But you have to keep telling yourself, I can make plays. The guy next to me can make plays. It was fate for us to win."

Only when Virginia fumbled a punt and Isaiah Gardner recovered it on the Cavaliers' 1-yard line did the offense get anywhere near the end zone. Lance Ball ran it in and scored, but Maryland still trailed 20-7.

Virginia's special teams helped out again in the third quarter when a 16-yard punt landed the Terps on the Cavaliers' 31-yard line. Six plays and 2:09 later, the score was 20-14.

"Clearly, the game hinged on two plays that made it very easy for them to get back in the game," Virginia coach Al Groh said, "the fumble recovery and the very short punt."

Maryland took its first lead of the game with 9:11 left in the fourth when Keon Lattimore used a block from true freshman Cory Jackson to break free and run 56 yards to the end zone. The momentum swing was immediate: Two plays later, Henderson intercepted a pass intended for tight end Jonathan Stupar and returned it 45 yards for a 28-20 lead.

After coaching for 34 years, Friedgen said he has experienced "a lot of these" come-from-behind wins.

"This one is pretty special to me because of what these kids have been going through," he said. "The fact they were able to continue to hang in there. After a while as a coach you start saying, `Hey, they're not listening. They don't hear me.' And when they respond like this, it's like the message finally got through."

Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach, who has been sacked 10 times in the past three games, said yesterday's win should be one the team can extract experience from as it heads into the final six games of the season.

"That's something we're going to be able to draw off of when we get in that situation again," said Hollenbach, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 171 yards and one interception. "First of all, being down 20-0 and coming back and getting a win, that says to us whatever the score is in a game we can always come back and we can always win."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Terps' notable comebacks

Previous 20-point comeback before yesterday

Nov. 20, 1993

Maryland trailed 23-0 at Wake Forest Result: Maryland wins, 33-32

Previous biggest comebacks under Ralph Friedgen as head coach

Nov. 29, 2003

Maryland trailed 21-7 at Wake Forest Result: Maryland wins, 41-28

Nov. 9, 2002

Maryland trailed 21-7 against North Carolina State Result: Maryland wins, 24-21

Biggest comeback at Maryland

Nov. 10, 1984

Maryland trailed 31-0 against Miami Result: Maryland wins, 42-40

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