Maryland Earns Sixth Straight Win Over Top 25 Foe
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Professionals with advanced degrees could take several years to determine why this Maryland football team can beat any opponent with a national ranking next to its name but look mediocre against just about anyone else. What is less confounding, after Maryland's 17-15 victory over No. 17 North Carolina yesterday before 46,113 soggy fans at Byrd Stadium, is where the Terrapins stand in an ACC title race that suddenly has crystallized.
Thanks to Florida State's loss to Boston College last night, Maryland (7-3, 4-2) sits alone atop the Atlantic Division. With remaining games against Florida State (4-3 in the ACC) and Boston College (3-3), the Terrapins can clinch an improbable berth in the Dec. 6 conference title game in Tampa by winning out. They also can secure the division title on Saturday with a victory at home over Florida State and a Boston College loss at Wake Forest.
It has taken four wins over nationally ranked opponents, the latest after a 19-play fourth-quarter drive and the second game-winning field goal in three weeks, but the Terrapins finally can see their goal on the immediate horizon.
"It is just crazy," wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. "But I think this season is special. I think the coaches and players feel it."
Nine days after the Terrapins rushed for minus-12 yards at Virginia Tech, running back Da'Rel Scott ran for 129 yards and Davin Meggett added 86. Nine days after allowing 273 rushing yards, a reshuffled defensive line helped hold the Tar Heels to 75.
And after struggling to control the ball offensively all season, Maryland held the ball for 40 minutes 29 seconds in yesterday's game, and for 8:43 on the decisive 19-play drive that culminated with Obi Egekze's 26-yard field goal with 1:42 remaining.
Maryland began the drive at its 18-yard line trailing by a point. Because the Terrapins had engineered a similar game-winning drive against North Carolina State on Oct. 25, their players exuded confidence.
"Our offensive line, you should have seen the look in their eyes," Heyward-Bey said.
Turner completed two third-down passes to wide receiver Danny Oquendo, whom Turner calls his go-to guy on third down. And on third and 10 from the Maryland 45, Turner fired a high pass to wide receiver Ronnie Tyler, who secured the ball in midair and maintained possession despite being turned nearly head-over-heels by cornerback Kendric Burney.
Later, Turner threw incomplete on third down at the North Carolina 32, nearly hitting an official with the pass. Offensive coordinator James Franklin then asked Coach Ralph Friedgen, "What do you want to do?"
"Go for it," Friedgen answered.
On fourth and five, Turner dropped back, found the Tar Heels in man coverage and saw all options defended.