In a season in which hairline victories over weak teams can be cherished, Maryland overcame a handful of breathtaking mistakes and held on to defeat Richmond, 27-24, today at Richmond City Stadium.
At the end of the wild first half, the inspired Spiders had only two first downs but trailed Maryland by only six points, 27-21.
Two of Richmond's touchdowns came at the expense of mercurial defensive halfback Lloyd Burruss. He was burned deep, twice, for the first time in his life, allowing 33- and 30-yard touchdown passes by Dave Taylor, after setting up the first drive by fumbling a punt. He had 15 relatives in the stands from Charlottesville. "I was psyched; maybe too psyched, he said.
The other Richmond touchdown came with 33 seconds left in the half on a blocked punt.
It was, in all, a weird game, just the thing to enable Maryland to accomplish its only feasible remaining goal - a winning season. The Terps are 6-4 with one game left, against Virginia.
Steve Adams kicked a 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to pull the Spiders to within 27-24.
Maryland tackle Charlie Johnson saved what could have a most humiliating defeat by sacking Taylor late in the game on fourth and 17 in Maryland territory.
Punter Mike Sochko took over the placekicking duties for the Terps for the first time this year and saved them with three extra points and with field goals from 33 yards and into the wind from the 41 - Maryland's final and winning score.
Workhorse tailback George Scott had his second straight 100-yard game, scoring touchdowns from one and five yards during a 171-yard effort.
The Shriners presented Scott with a handsome trophy for being voted outstanding offensive player of the game, but Scott was none to jubilant.
"I'm really not as happy as I'd like to be," said the quiet sophomore. "We didn't come out and put them away like we should have. We have not shown the ability to put anybody away. We don't show class."
As a measure of how far above their heads the Spiders played. Taylor's first-half touchdown passes equaled his career best for one game. Their 21 points at the half were more than they scored in any game this year. All their points were scored by freshmen.
Maryland never trailed, however, taking the opening kickoff and driving 66 yards in 13 plays, Scott scoring on a one-yard touchdown run around the right end, free-lanced from a botched off-tackle plan.
Burruss then fumbled the first punt from Bruce Allen (son of Redskin coach George Allen as it bounced off his chest.
"I might have started running before I had the ball," said Burruss. "What a wild day. I played terrible."
Two plays later, Taylor heaved the ball 33 yards to Jesse Williams, a 9.4 sprinter. "He just outran me to the ball," said Burruss. That tied it at 7-7.
A 50-yard screen pass to fullback Mickey Dudish on third and six set up Sochko's 33-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead at the end of the first period.
Burruss then made a play he could be proud of, intercepting a Taylor pass and running 24 yards to Richmond's 19. Scott responded by putting the Terps up, 17-7, on a five-yard bump-and-run, free-lanced wide again from a simple offtackle run.
Maryland went to its biggest lead, 24-7, with a razzle-dazzle, wingback option pass from Dean Richards to Chuck White from six yards out, concluding a drive that began at the 50 after Chris Ward returned Allen's 23-yard punt 10 yards.
With 10.52 left in the half, the Spiders began a scoring spree. It started with kickoff after White's touchdown. The remarkable Williams received and streaked up the field 58 yards to give Richmond good field position at Maryland's 37.
Prior to this game, Taylor had not thrown a touchdown pass since Nov. 20, 1976, but he was so encouraged by his accomplishment the previous quarter, that, on third and three, he launched a perfect pass 30 yards to the right sideline, where Ken Tweedy burst ahead of Burrus and beat him by three lengths to the end zone.
Ralph Lary's interception led to Sochko's 41-yard line-drive field goal into a swirling wind for a 27-14 advantage that was to dwindle in three minutes.
With Maryland punting from about midfield, Ken Gilliam made a spectacular play rushing from the middle of Richmond's line to block Sochko's kick. Larry Braun was there to pick up the ball and the backup linebacker raced 45 yards with no one close to him for the score.
With a 27-21 halftime lead, Maryland coaches were not silent in the locker room and the Terp defense returned to stifle Richmond the rest of the way. The Spiders, now 3-7, put together only one successful drive leading to Adams 26-yard field goal with 10:40 left in the game.
Johnson's sack stopped the Spiders on their next and last-trip into Maryland territory.
Maryland bogged down on third-down plays in the second half, converting only two of six, and didn't cross the 50 until the last series of the game, when the Terps ran out the clock.*