Maryland stole one today.
The Terrapins put on a classic display of Jekyll-Hyde football, playing horribly for 30 minutes, then with heart and just enough flair the next 30 to escape with a 17-14 victory over a Duke team which simply hasn't learned how to win yet.
For the second straight week, dreadful weather conditions turned a Maryland game into a bizarre affair. And, for the second straight week, an unsung backup provided the key for Maryland's escape act.
Dale Castro's 25-yard field goal with 5:32 left provided the winning margin for Maryland, now 2-1 in the ACC, 5-3 overall. Charlie Wysocki, who carried an ACC record 50 times for 217 yards, broke tackles all day and scored both Maryland touchdowns on runs of 11 and seven yards.
But Brent DeWitz, the team's No. 3 quarterback, turned the game around just when it seemed that Maryland was going to be embarrassed in front of 17,400 drenched fans and a regional television audience by a team that saw its record fall to 1-6.
Trailing 14-0 at halftime and knowing that first string quarterback Mike Tice could not play because of a sore hip, Coach Jerry Claiborne did two things in the locker room during intermission.
He huddled with quarterback coach Jerry Eisaman and decided that No. 2 Bob Milkovich (two for eight for one yard and one interception) had played long enough. The coaches walked over to DeWitz.
"They just told me, get ready, you're going in the second half," DeWitz said. "They told Bobby to stay ready, too. I've been waiting a long time. I was ready." DeWitz had seen action in two previous Terp games this season, both in mop-up roles.
That issue settled, Claiborne turned his attention to the rest of the team.
In no uncertain terms he told them what he thought of their first-half performance.
"He, uh, told us we weren't being aggressive enough," defensive guard Marlin Van Horn said.
That was putting it politely.
When the Terps emerged from the locker room, all of them had one thought. "We didn't want to be embarrassed," said defensive back Ralph Lary. "We were in the first half. We didn't want to lose and really be embarrassed."
And they didn't want to lose, and then face Claiborne.
The Terps took the second-half kickoff and started at their 30. Two plays and a delay penalty later, they had third and 14 on the 26. In came wide receiver Chris Havener.
"Every time I came into the game their whole defense was yelling 'pass, pass, pass,'" the red-haired senior said afterward. "They knew I wasn't coming in to block."
DeWitz rolled left and threw to Havener. Defensive back Dennis Tabron was right there. Havener went up and somehow came down with the ball for a 21-yard gain and a first down.
Wysocki, who ran his career rushing yardage to 2,216 picked up 15. Two plays later, it was third and six at the 34. Again DeWitz rolled left. Again Tabron went up for the ball. Again, Havener came down with it, this time for a 10-yard gain.
Two more plays netted a yard to the 23, so DeWitz and Havener did it to them one more time. Deja vu for 11 more to the 11. Wysocki scored from there, cutting the lead to 14-7, and the Duke side of the field seemed to sag. t
"It was a heck of a comeback by our kids," Claiborne said. "The first half we were standing around defensively, we weren't getting a pass rush and our offense just wasn't doing well, wasn't moving the ball.
"Brent really did the job, gave us the lift we needed. I thought the first drive was really important because it gave us momentum. It got us going."
Something had to get the Terps going. Duke freshman quarterback Ben Bennett made them look terrible the first quarter. First, he found wide receiver Marvin Brown a step behind Lloyd Burruss for a 38-yard touchdown pass with 7:44 left in the first quarter.
Then, after Tabron, who had three interceptions in Duke's win over Clemson a week ago, intercepted Milkovich at the Maryland 35, Bennet moved the Devils to the 14. From there, he pitched to tailback Greg Boone. The sophomore pulled up and wobbled an option pass to tight end John Brinkman at the goal line.
Maryland linebacker Mike Muller didn't see the wounded duck heading toward him until Brinkman had leaped and pulled it down. It was 14-0 Duke and there was still 2:28 left in the first quarter.
"We were going so well," Bennett lamented. "Our game plan was sound, we knew we could pass on them. Then, it just fell apart. It could have been an awful big boost if we could have won."
But Duke was not going to win. "They're a good team," Van Horn said. "They did a lot of good things today. But we've been there. We know how to make our breaks."
Actually, it was Bennett (11 of 24 for 146 yards) who provided the critical break Maryland needed. With the ball on the Duke eight, 40 seconds into the fourth quarter, Bennet fumbled the snap from center. Todd Benson jumped on it at the seven. One play later, Wysocki was in the end zone. The sun had finally come out for the soaked fans and for Maryland. The game was tied, 14-14.
"I didn't feel tired at all," said Wysocki, who broke the record of 47 carries in an ACC game held by North Carolina's Don McCauley and Mike Voight (both against Duke). "The first half we tried to run outside but they had that closed off. The second half we went inside and I found some yards there. I felt strong."
It did not take Maryland very long to take the lead for the first time in the game.Bennett avoided a Mike Corvino sack at the 10 on Duke's next series by intentionally grounding the ball, putting it on the five. Ricky Brummitt punted to midfield.
DeWitz got 16 on a quarterback keeper. Two plays later Wysocki broke three tackels to reach the eight. On third down from the five, Maryland got the final break it needed when Duke's Glen Barner dropped an easy interception in the end zone. That enabled Castro to come on and get the winning points.
The Terps then blunted Duke's final chances when Joe Aluisi sacked Bennett and forced him out of the game. First Brent Klincscale, then Ron Salley came on to throw interceptions, one to Joe Wilkins, the other to Mike Muller.
The Terps had escaped embarrassment and the wrath of their coach.
"I didn't feel like we had it won until the clock hit :00," Claiborne said.
Considering the bizarre events of the last two weeks, he was entitled to feel that way.