By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 13, 2010; 11:36 PM
CHARLOTTESVILLE - The party erupted in the visitors' locker room. Maryland's offensive coordinator leapt into a pile of players. An assistant sprayed a water bottle as if it were champagne. And the head coach bounced, jiggled and rolled his hips, an attempt at dancing.
After authoring forgettable and unsightly performances at Scott Stadium for the better part of 18 years, the Terrapins unleashed a dominant effort Saturday, pulling away from Virginia in a 42-23 rout that will be long savored because of the ramifications.
Maryland (7-3, 4-2 ACC) guaranteed itself a winning regular season and at least a .500 record in the ACC. With that came what is believed to be a significant step toward ensuring Coach Ralph Friedgen's return in 2011, though first-year athletic director Kevin Anderson remained noncommittal about Friedgen's return after the game.
The Terrapins also moved within two wins of clinching the ACC Atlantic Division title. Though they have yet to beat a conference team with a winning record, the fact that they control their own destiny is an improbable development considering they won two games last season and were predicted to finish last in the division this season.
And before a crowd of 45,634 on Virginia's senior day, the Terrapins eliminated their bitter rival from bowl contention with just their second win in their last 10 games in Charlottesville. Virginia (4-6, 1-5) finishes the season with road games at Boston College and Virginia Tech.
"I wanted this one real bad," Friedgen said.
All week, Friedgen had been as tight as he had been all season, jumping on players for the smallest practice miscues. He was superstitious enough to change hotels this season and stay 70 miles from Virginia's campus. The stress turned to joy after his team snapped a three-game losing streak against Virginia and showed no lingering effects from last weekend's last-minute loss at Miami.
Maryland can thank Virginia for committing 16 penalties - one shy of the program record - for 145 yards. And the Terrapins also can thank their own redshirt freshmen. Quarterback Danny O'Brien threw for 289 yards, had two touchdown passes and ran for another. Friedgen said O'Brien, 20, has turned into a "coach on the field."
D.J. Adams, a redshirt freshman running back, scored three touchdowns of six, one and two yards. Although pass protection continues to be an issue for Adams, when he is handed the ball in the red zone "he will fight his butt off to get in the end zone," Friedgen said.
Offensively, Maryland exploited Virginia's one-on-one coverage with big plays, including two for more than 50 yards. Wide receiver Torrey Smith finished with 157 receiving yards on seven receptions. And a new wrinkle was introduced: 320-pound Zach Kerr, a defensive lineman, lined up at fullback a handful of times.
Defensively, safety Eric Franklin and linebacker Adrian Moten each intercepted a pass in the second half after the unit settled down. Moten said he simply wrestled the ball from Virginia wide receiver Kris Burd because "I wanted it a little more."
"This was a big win in the rivalry," Moten added. "They hate us. We hate them."
This was a wild, emotionally charged game that saw a former Virginia team manager throw a touchdown pass on a fake field goal, a backup Virginia place kicker belt a 52-yard field goal and enough dropped passes to leave coaches on both sidelines shaking their heads. And that was only in the first half.
The third quarter brought more wackiness. Late in the quarter, with Maryland facing a third and 14 from its own 40, O'Brien took a five-step drop and threw a pass over the middle that should have been intercepted by linebacker Darnell Carter. But the ball deflected off Carter's hands and was caught by Maryland receiver LaQuan Williams for a 26-yard gain. Friedgen said James Franklin, the offensive coordinator, quickly went from "No! No! No!" to "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Carter smashed his helmet in apparent disbelief. Three plays later, Adams scored his third touchdown of the game on a two-yard run. The drive sucked the life out of Virginia.
"We got really lucky," O'Brien said. "Then we took advantage of the change in momentum and rolled after that."
With a little less than eight minutes remaining in the game - after Maryland widened its lead to 12 with Da'Rel Scott's two-yard touchdown reception - the Terrapins sealed the game with Franklin's interception. That sent most of the Virginia fans home.
After the game, reporters asked Anderson if the seventh win ensured Friedgen's return in 2011, the final year of his contract. Former athletic director Debbie Yow had said a winning regular season was her expectation before she left to take the same position this summer at North Carolina State.
Anderson remained noncommittal regarding Friedgen's future. "Looking for the eighth" victory, Anderson said. "Florida State is big and we want everyone [fans] out." The comment was not intended to be a magic number for Friedgen to reach, but rather a sentiment that could have been expressed by any Maryland fan hoping for continued success.
"Here we are with two games to go in the season and we have a shot to win our division," Friedgen said. "We were picked to finish last by all of the experts, and that in itself is an accomplishment. We're not looking to stop there, though."