For Maryland, the beat goes on. Three weeks ago, North Carolina State was trouced. Today, the victim was Virginia.
After Maryland ended its regular seadon with a 31-0 victory, Jerry Claiborne was in coaches' heaven. On a brisk but gorgious fall afternoon, in front of 22,407 in Scott Stadium, his team had put ona clinic on how to annihilate an opponent.
The victory, the Terps' fifth straight, enabled them to finish the regular season with an 8-3 record. They ended 5-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference second to North Carolina. Maryland now goes to the Tangerine Bowl Dec. 20 to face Florida. Virginia closed its disappointing season with a 4-7 recore, 2-4 in the ACC.
There were numerous heroes today. Tireless tailback Charlie Wysocki scored a touchdown and easily broke Steve Atkins' single-season rushing record of 1,261 yards, gaining 148. He now has 1,359 yards.
Backup tailback Wayne Wingfield scored on a three-yard run and No. 3 tailback Tim Whittie had a 10-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Mike Tice completed seven of 12 passes; his backup, Brent Dewitz, was two for two, one for a touchdown, another setting another setting up a touchdown.
But best of all was the defense. That unit has given up but seven points in the last 15 quarters, dating back to the Duke game. With Marlin Van Horn leading the way, the pass rush was almost unstoppable, sacking UVA quarterback Todd Kirtley four times, hurrying him into an interception and numerous poorly thrown passes.
The linebackers and secondary, with Sammy Johnson and Ralph Lary each having in interception (the latter's on a Tommy Vigorito option pass) were equally effective. They limited Vigorito to 19 yards on 14 carries and the UVA team to minus 17 yards rushing.
"That rush today was as tough as I've seen," Kirtley said. "Ever".
Claiborne was so delighted by the outcome that he joked with reporters about finding a lucky penny prior to the game.
"We got by our first three games, then lost three to real good teams," Claiborne said. "At that point, we had to convince our kids they could play with good teams. We've improved each week. Confindence breeds success and right now we're a pretty condfident team."
Also, a pretty good team.
"We deserve to be in the top 20," Claiborne said. "Teams should be ranked based on the way they're playing now, not on what they did five years ago or on reputation."
Based on their last 15 quarters, the Terps certainly merit strong consideration. Four games back, trailing Duke, 14-0 the Terps were given a tongue lashing at halftime by Claiborne. They came back and won, 17-14, and since have outscored opponents 106-7.
"That day back at Duke Coach Claiborne appealed to our pride," said fullback Rick Fasano, a terror once again as a lead blocker for Wysocki. "He reminded us about Maryland pride and told us we had a lot to prove to him and to oursleves. Right then, we started to turn it around."
Several players said they were turned around further the following week by a series of newspaper stories evaluating the football program.
"It pulled us together," Tice said. "We got mad because people said we had gone downhill. It got us going."
Today, it took the Terps 30 minutes to get going. The defense was as good as ever the first half, but the offense was sluggish, turning the ball over twice on interceptions by UVA's Pat Chester and blowing good field position on several occasions.
The only three points of half were set up, naturally, by the defense. Kirtley completed a pass to split end Cole Egan at the Cavalier 30-yard line. But as Egan struggled forward, the ball slipped loose and Ed Gall fell on it at the 42. The ball appeared to slip free from Gall, but the officials awarded it to the Terps there anyway.
The offense managed to reach the 12 before stalling. Dale Castro came on and easily kicked a 29-yard field goal with 7:36 left in the first quarter. It still was 3-0 at intermission, but was only a matter of time before Maryland began dominating.
The Terps, sitting in their cramped locker room at halftime, were nervous. They had been given a chance to blow open the game and had not taken advantage.
"We were worried because we know Virginia is a dangerous team," Wysocki said. "They're capable of putting points on the board in a hurry if you let them stay close."
Wysocki then made certain the Cavaliers didn't stay close. The Terapins' second possession of the third quarter began at the UVA 49. Tice passed to Eric Sievers for 17 yards and Wysocki went to work. He carried nine straight times, the seventh time on fourth and one from the 11 getting a first down. His last carry started at the five, where he spun through a huge hole on the right side for a 10-0 lead with 7:22 left in the quarter.
On the sideline, Clairborne had hesitated only a moment before giving Tice the go-ahead to call the fourth down Wysocki dive.
"We'd been doing a good job on the offensive line," he said. "I just thought a 10-0 lead right then would help give us momentum a lot more than a 6-0 lead."
He was right. After Wysocki's touchdown, the defense continued to stuff Virginia. Even though Maryland got no points out of a possession that ended on the 26, Castro missing a field goal, and another than ended on the 10 when Sievers fumbled after a catch, the Terps were in control.
Then finally put away the game when Lary intercepted Vigorito's wounded duck at the Virginia 40 and ran to the 25 four minutes into the final quarter.
At that point, Claiborne inserted Dewitz. His first play was a tight end screen pass to John Tice, who lumbered to the three. From where, wingfield went in almost untouched and it was 17-0 with 10:24 to play.
The rest was icing, Whittie going in for a 24-0 lead with 5-14 left and
Dewitz ending the scoring with a 43-yard strike to lewis with 4:04 to play.
"The last 20 minutes of the ballgame was played in five years," Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick said. "It was just everything that could go wrong went wrong. . . . It was just a nightmare."
"I couldn't be happier with the way this day turned out," Claiborne said.
And the penny?
"That," he said, "is going with me to the Tangerine Bowl."