With opportunities running out, Terps punt returner Will Likely breaks out

Defensive tackle Andre Monroe stands out with three sacks and nine tackles in win vs. Virginia Tech

  • Maryland's Will Likely (4) returns a punt for a touchdown as running back Kenneth Goins Jr. looks on during the second quarter at Lane Stadium.
Maryland's Will Likely (4) returns a punt for a touchdown… (Bob Donnan / USA Today Sports )
November 16, 2013|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Maryland freshman Will Likely said last week that he could feel a return for a touchdown coming.

But he knew he was running out of chances, and the Terps were seemingly running out of time.

"I was getting antsy, 'cause I'm trying to make a play," Likely recalled Saturday. "My coaches told me, 'Just let the plays come to you,' and that's what I did."

After a 37-yard punt return in the second quarter, Likely had a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown to help jump-start Maryland in its 27-24 overtime victory against Virginia Tech.

The 5-foot-7 freshman from Belle Glade, Fla., who grew up chasing rabbits, thought he had broken free for a touchdown on his first big return.

"I thought I did, but I once I saw I couldn't, I just tried to get what I can get, not try to rush anything, just get what they give me," Likely said.

The touchdown return was a little different.

"They thought I was going right, and once I caught it, I always knew I could make the first guy miss, and I just took it up the field," he said. "We were watching film all week. Their punter is a great punter, but sometimes he overkicks [the coverage], and it gives you time to do what you do."

Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Likely's touchdown return, the first by a Terp since Tony Logan in 2010, keyed the Terps' victory. Likely also played well at cornerback, finishing with four tackles and one pass defended.

Given Likely's playmaking ability, Edsall could use his standout rookie at slot receiver as well.

Likely, who played the position in high school, wouldn't mind.

"They know what I can do, they know my abilities. I just trust them. Wherever they put me at, I'm going to be successful," Likely said.


Junior defensive tackle Andre Monroe showed promise as a freshman, but a knee injury the summer before his sophomore year set him back. It took until the middle of this season for Monroe to find his form.

On Saturday, he mostly found Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas.

Monroe finished with nine tackles, tying him with sophomore safety Sean Davis for the team high. But where Monroe made the biggest impact was Virginia Tech's backfield, sacking Thomas three times and helping the Terps record a season-high seven sacks.

"Physically, this is the best I've felt [since freshman year]. I know mentally, it is," Monroe said. "The injury put me through a test, and I passed the test and it made me everything else stronger. It's always a progression — each game builds on the next, each practice builds on the next, each film session builds on the next. It's just a process, and you've just got to be humble and keep going."

Said senior linebacker Matt Robinson: "Andre played his butt off."


Maryland's victory made the Terps eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2010, but where will the Terps end up?

That could depend on how Maryland's record in its last two games — at home against Boston College on Saturday and at North Carolina State on Nov. 30 — but the most likely destinations seem to be Annapolis for the Military Bowl or Shreveport, La., for the AdvoCare V100 Bowl.

Representatives from both bowls likely will be at Byrd Stadium when the Terps take on the Eagles.


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