Maryland's football team performed two feats yesterday that as recently as seven days ago had seemed impossible.
The Terrapins shut out a team, Virginia, by 28-0. And then they accepted a postseason bowl bid.
The victory over a dazed Cavalier team of thin talent wrote a 7-4 ending to Maryland's regular season. It earned the Terrapins a berth in the first Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 22 against Minnesota of the Big 10.
"I think this bowl is indicative of our season - a heartbreak ending on a happy note," said Terp quarterback Larry Dick. "And now it's ending on a happy note."
The bowl and the team do seem suited for one another. Years ago, chairman Fred Sington, a former Washington Senator, began making plans for the Hall of Fame Bowl. He envisioned it as a postbowl bowl - that is, a game after the rest of the Oranges, Roses and Cottons to decide the national championship.
Sington's bowl has fallen far short of an evan to decide a national champion. And Maryland, which started the season ranked ninth in the nation, will not ring in the new year within a poll's length of the national champion.
All season the Terrapins have been frustrated by injuries, errors and half-efforts, and even today, in their first shutout, the verdict was in question until midway through the third quarter.
In the first half, Dick struggled with a burning pain in his hip joint and completed only three of seven passes. He threw tow interceptions, giving him 12 for the year. Maryland led at intermission, 14-0 scoring on a 33-yard drive two minutes into the game and on a 23-yard march 50 seconds before halftime. In between Virginia crossed Maryland's 26 three times but could not score.
Maryland coach Jerry Claiborne discarded the pass, turning once again to sophomore tailback George Scott. He responded with 173 yards and enabled Maryland to control the game.
Dick lashed out at himself after the contest, repeating over and over that there was no excuse for his performance.
"I should get out if I can't do the job, but all I can think about when I'm out there is trying to complete passes." said Dick. "I hate to make excuses, but since I got my hip pointer a month ago, I get a burning sensation in my hip when I roll out or drop back.It overwhelms me.
"I could feel coach Claiborne losing confidence in me. I know how he hates interceptions. Maybe I try too hard. I just don't know. Nobody feels more terrible than I do.
"Quite honestly, Virginia is a team without a lot of talent. I could sense many of these players didn't want to be out there. It (the lopsided score) could have been twice as bad. But as it was, I kept them in the game.
"I hate to throw those interceptions, because they move nine guys to the line of scrimmage to stop George (Scott), and I hate to see George have to run over nine guys."
Virginia coach Dick Bestwick admitted before the game that his only glimmer of hope was that Maryland would make mistakes and that his players would capitalize on them.
But the Cavaliers showed themselves incapable of cashing in on Maryland's three first-half turnovers. They botched scoring opportunities in almost every feasible way.
Skip Browning ended one march when he was unable to gain a yard on fourth down at the Maryland 16. On another drive, Vince Mattox fumbled at the Maryland two. And later, blessed with field position at Maryland's 33, all the Cavs came up with was a 43-yard field-goal attempt, wide left.
"I read my horoscope this morning," said Bestwick, "and it said 'Avoid dangerous places." I really should have.
Don Dotter returned the opening kickoff 67 yards to the 33, settling up Maryland's first touchdown. Scott carried on three of four rushing plays and then added a 13-yard pass-run play for the touchdown on third and 10.
Jim Shaffer gave Maryland good field position for its second touhdown. He recovered his second fumble of the game at Virginia's 23. Five plays later, Dean Richards scored on third and goal from the two.
Virginia stopped itself in the half with three turnovers and only four first downs. The Cavs gained 75 yards, 55 on the ground. Scott rushed for 115 for Maryland during the first two periods.
The Terps scored twice within 44 seconds midway through the third periods and the crowd of 33,787 breathed a little easier.
Tight end Eric Seivers accounted for almost half of an 86-yard drive with a 35-yard catch on a botched third-and-23 play, moving the Terrapins to the five. Fullback Mickey Dudish hopscotched one yard for the touchdown.
A sack of Virginia quarterback Chip ark forced a fumble and Neal Olkewicz recovered for Maryland at Vigianita's seven, seconds later. On the second play in the series, Preacher Maddox fought his way up the middle for the score.
Both coaches emptied their benches in the fourth quarter. Maryland partisans had a look at lefthanded quarterback Tim O'Hare, who probably will pilot the team next year, and tailback Steve Atkins, who hadn't played since the North Carolina game.
It was Maryland's third straight victory. The troublesome injury streak was kept alive as defensive tackle Ed Gall, who has been starting in place of Ernie Salley (knee surgery) fractured his left hand.
"Overall we were happy to win the game," said Claiborne. "Our defense saved us in the first half. We wanted to win our last three and go to a bowl. Any time you have the opportunity to play in a bowl game it is a good experience for the players."