Cavs Hand Terps a 2nd Tumble
Sunday, October 5, 2008
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Oct. 4 -- When the final seconds ticked off the clock Saturday night, Maryland's players performed a familiar routine, slowly trudging from a football field as delirious fans danced and embraced in the stands following an outcome as unexpected as any in the ACC all season.
For the second time in a month, Maryland was responsible for helping a struggling college football team stage an unexpected party in a partially empty stadium. Only this result -- a 31-0 loss to Virginia that was as inexplicable as it was complete -- will prove far more damaging to the Terrapins than their loss at Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 6.
Just when Maryland was beginning to resemble a legitimate ACC title contender, the Terrapins (4-2, 1-1 ACC) delivered a performance as ghastly as any by a Maryland team in recent memory. They squandered a prime opportunity to enter the bye week with two conference road victories. And they managed to make one of the nation's most hapless and dysfunctional offenses look potent.
The loss left Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen without answers. He accepted ultimate responsibility for the loss, questioned his team's focus, cited mental mistakes and passive play, and said he is not reaching players.
"You guys must think I am trying to throw these games," said Friedgen, who later in his news conference began softly mumbling: "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. I think, 'What more could I have done?' It's a question of whether they hear you or whether they want to hear you."
The final score staggered observers at Scott Stadium. Two Orange Bowl officials lingered in the press box late in the game. One shook his head, saying, "Doesn't make any sense."
The Cavaliers (2-3, 1-1) scored four touchdowns, one more than they had scored in four previous games combined. They amassed more total yards in the first half Saturday than they had in the entire games against Southern California and Connecticut. And they diminished the heat, at least for one week, on beleaguered coach Al Groh.
"Playing Maryland brings out the best," Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim said. "We weren't nearly as bad as everyone said we were. Everyone made it seem like we were the worst team in America."
Maryland was shut out for the first time since losing here to Virginia in 2004. Running back Da'Rel Scott rushed for just 36 yards, and the team's most explosive player, Darrius Heyward-Bey, didn't have a catch. Chris Turner threw to Heyward-Bey twice, and not once in the final 57 minutes.
"Got to get open," Friedgen said.
Maryland's defense, which has oscillated between inconsistent and poor all season, looked slow, uninspired and at times lifeless. Players missed tackles, took bad angles on other pursuits and left receivers open downfield.
The Cavaliers repeatedly attacked Maryland with quick strikes, deliberate drives and gutsy fourth-down plays. Marc Verica established career highs in passing yards (226), completions (25) and touchdown passes (two).