Title Hopes Tumble

Error-prone Terps denied in bid to play for ACC crown

No. 20 Wake Forest 38 Maryland 24

ACC championship race

November 26, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

COLLEGE PARK -- Before kickoff last night, there was a closed-door meeting in the Tyser Tower press box between representatives from the Orange Bowl and officials in the Maryland athletic department - a standard meeting at which topics such as logistics, marketing and ticket sales are discussed - just in case.

Not long after the kickoff against Wake Forest, though, the door to the Orange Bowl remained closed.

The Terps (8-4, 5-3 ACC) picked the most inopportune time to unravel - on the brink of reaching the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, where the winner advances to the prestigious Orange Bowl. Instead, before a sellout crowd of 51,500 - the largest home crowd of the season - Maryland reverted to the mistake-laden football that has kept it from contending for anything the past two seasons and lost, 38-24, to No. 20 Wake Forest.

Many outside the program never would have figured either team to be playing for the league title, but the Demon Deacons (10-2, 6-2) will play Georgia Tech at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., for the ACC championship.

Wake Forest fans, who long outlasted the Maryland crowd, chanted "Jacks-on-ville!" with about two minutes left. It was a harried fourth quarter, as the Terps trailed by two touchdowns with 7:21 remaining.

The misdirection in Wake Forest's running game, led by converted wide receiver Kenneth Moore - 165 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries - picked apart the Maryland defense, which has been outgained in total yardage every game this season except the season opener.

After running back Keon Lattimore rushed seven times for 49 yards on Maryland's first possession of the third quarter, the Terps had the ball on the 9-yard line. An incomplete pass on third down, though, forced Maryland to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Dan Ennis, who has made 12 straight.

The Terps were still in the game early in the fourth quarter after quarterback Sam Hollenbach connected with Isaiah Williams for a 5-yard touchdown pass that closed the deficit to 31-24.

That was as close as Maryland got.

Hollenbach threw three interceptions in the first half, but only the third resulted in a Wake Forest score and a fleeting shift in momentum.

After escaping the first two turnovers because of a stingy defensive effort, Maryland fell behind 21-7 when the Demon Deacons scored just two plays after Hollenbach was intercepted by Alphonso Smith - again. The same thing happened on the Terps' previous possession, when Hollenbach was intercepted from the Wake Forest 15, but the Demon Deacons went three-and-out. This time, Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner completed a 49-yard touchdown pass to Willie Idlette for the 21-7 lead.

After the first interception - which ruined Josh Wilson's 40-yard kickoff return - Maryland cornerback Isaiah Gardner returned the ball to Hollenbach three plays later with an interception and a 4-yard return. It was Skinner's first interception on the road this season, and ended his streak of 55 passes without a turnover.

Maryland was unable to make anything of it, though, as the Terps gained only one yard and Hollenbach overthrew Williams, who appeared to be in position to break away.

Hollenbach redeemed himself and kept Maryland in reach with two key passes late in the first half. He found Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 19-yard pass and immediately followed that with a 20-yard pass to tight end Jason Goode. The plays set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Lance Ball with 4:40 left that cut the lead to 21-14.

Maryland caught its umpteenth break of the season when offsetting penalties during Wake Forest's next-to-last punt of the half forced the Demon Deacons to kick again. The difference in yardage was 29 yards, and Maryland started its final drive of the half on its own 45-yard line with about two minutes left. Hollenbach threw three incomplete passes, though, including one in the end zone to Williams.

Maryland scored on its first possession, and Hollenbach and Lattimore accounted for all 70 yards of the drive. Hollenbach completed three passes for 41 yards and Lattimore carried six times for 29 yards, including the 12-yard touchdown run that put the Terps ahead 7-0.

Wake Forest answered on its ensuing possession, though, a 69-yard, 13-play drive capped by Kevin Harris' 2-yard score. The Demon Deacons took the lead in the second quarter when Moore went around the end for a 19-yard touchdown run and a 14-7 lead.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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