Terps can't hold on, lose to Miami 26-20

Last-gasp pass falls to the ground and Maryland is denied 'breakthrough' win

November 06, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — As his pass reached the end zone, Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien believed for the briefest moment that the Terps had done it.

The redshirt freshman thought that receiver Adrian Cannon had made a catch on the game's final play that could have secured Maryland's first road victory since September 2008 against a team with a winning record.

But Cannon couldn't manage to hold onto the pass or stay in bounds, leaving the Terps (6-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) to ponder a 26-20 loss to Miami that seemed to sting more than other defeats precisely because Maryland came so close.

Cannon knelt in the end zone for several minutes after the play, seeming to contemplate how near the Terps had come to a breakthrough victory.

"I thought for a split second he caught it, but obviously not," O'Brien said. "It's a tough loss to swallow. Miami is a tough team, but I felt like we should have won this game. We didn't feel outmatched at all."

Maryland had seemed in control moments earlier, leading 20-18.

Trailing by two, Miami took over on its 18 with 3:06 remaining following a 62-yard punt by Travis Baltz.

The Hurricanes, aided by a roughing-the-passer on Maryland's Joe Vellano, moved to the 50. On third and 11 from Miami's 49, freshman quarterback Stephen Morris scrambled for 16 yards. On the next play, Morris — subbing for an injured Jacory Harris — lofted a 35-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson over cornerback Dexter McDougle.

"That was a perfectly thrown ball," said Maryland safety Kenny Tate (12 tackles), who trailed the play. "Anywhere else I think I could have made a play. It's definitely a heart-breaker."

Lamar Miller ran 2 yards for the conversion, making it 26-20.

It wasn't a critical loss for Maryland's season. The Terps became bowl-eligible last weekend. But it was a gut punch for a team trying to earn respect by beating a winning team on the road for the first time since defeating Clemson two seasons ago.

After last season, Debbie Yow, who was then Maryland athletic director, said that seven wins would be a "reasonable" goal for head coach Ralph Friedgen, whose job security had been uncertain. Friedgen and the Terps have three more regular-season games to try to get their seventh win. Yow is now athletic director at N.C. State.

Maryland had held Hankerson, who now has 10 touchdown receptions, to two catches for 20 yards in the first half.

Maryland continued its pattern of turning turnovers into big plays. Linebacker Alex Wujciak had two interceptions, returning one 60 yards for a touchdown.

It was Wujciak's second career interception return for a touchdown, and it put Maryland ahead 14-6 in the second quarter. The linebacker had expressed embarrassment last season about being caught at the 7 after returning an interception 82 yards against Florida State. This time, he said he made it into the end zone easily because he got good blocking.

Wujciak's second interception came with the Terps trailing 18-17 and gave the Terps possession at the Miami 17.

But O'Brien's pass for LaQuan Williams was intercepted in the end zone by Ray-Ray Armstrong — an uncharacteristic error by the quarterback and Maryland's only turnover of the day.

Maryland regained the lead, 20-18, on a 23-yard Baltz field goal with 9:19 remaining.

"The disappointing thing is we weren't able to finish," Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown said. "I'm sure after I look at the tape I'll be sick to my stomach."

Brown, who said his defense played well in the second half, said he'll probably suffer watching the game video and think: " 'I should have did this, I should have done that.' That's kind of how you feel at the end of the day. What could you have done better to help your guys?"

Miami coach Randy Shannon called it a "huge win" that came on homecoming on a windy day at Sun Life Stadium. Before the win was secured, there was a smattering of boos apparently directed at Shannon for expending early second-half timeouts and for some play calls. Miami also missed two points after touchdowns.

Trailing 26-20, the Terps had started their final possession from their 37 before completions of 26 yards to Cannon and 12 yards to Kevin Dorsey took the ball to the Miami 30.

"We thought with 100 percent confidence that we were going to score and win," said O'Brien. "We had a shot — that's all you can ask for — on a last-minute drive," the quarterback said.

Cannon was jarred by Miami safety Vaughn Telemaque as he tried to grasp O'Brien's final pass.

"At the end of the game we had a chance to win against a very talented football team on their field," offensive coordinator James Franklin said . "I think we're headed in the right direction."

Jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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