Tennessee knew this could happen. Coach Johnny Majors warned his players at halftime that if a team such as Maryland could come back from 31 points down to win, it certainly could come back from 21-0.
Defensive tackle Tony Simmons said, "Coach Majors reminded us at halftime that if they did it to Miami they could do it to us. After that little speech, we figured we'd go out and shut them out again in the second half.
"I never thought they could do it again because we were aware, and we said we'd be more aggressive. They didn't play well at all the first half. But in the second, their backs started cutting back, a lot of cutbacks. They caught us overpursuing. And their receivers kept getting wide open. We had some defensive back troubles."
Tennessee, before the half was over, would have a lot of problems. And it's not surprising so many were related to the defense because Maryland -- in the second half -- had the ball 24 minutes; Tennessee had it six.
Nearly 380 of Maryland's 430 yards in its 28-27 victory came after halftime. The Volunteers didn't make a first down in the third quarter, when Maryland set a Sun Bowl record by scoring 22 points.
Tony Robinson, the Tennessee quarterback, said, "It was terrible just sitting on the sideline watching them drive the ball on our defense. Three downs and punts won't get it at this level."
Tennessee's defensive players thought two plays changed the second half: Tommy Neal's 57-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter -- Maryland's first score -- and Rick Badanjek's lateral that turned a no gain into a eight-yard pickup.
On second and five from the 18, Badanjek was stood up near the line of scrimmage. But right behind him, unguarded, was Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof. Badanjek scooped the ball back with both hands, and Abdur-Ra'oof, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds, went down the sideline until tackled at the 10.
Three plays later, Maryland scored to pull to 21-15. "That lateral just frustrated our whole defense," Simmons said. "We had him stopped and it would have been third down. We had him."
Badanjek, voted the game's most valuable player, said he and his teammates were constantly on edge, knowing they had to score almost every time the touched the ball.
"I don't know why we do this," he said. "We got lucky and came up with some really big plays today."
Maryland defensive end Scott Schankweiler was happy to have won, but could have done without the drama. "I can believe we did it," he said. "But I'm sick of doing it. I'm tired of being three and four touchdowns behind at halftime. You just never know what's gonna happen with our team."
Majors said before the game that his team had as difficult a challenge "as any team in any bowl." With the Volunteers ahead by three touchdowns at halftime, he appeared guilty of pregame bowl hype.
By the end of the game, he wasn't in the mood to say much of anything. "Maryland deserves tremendous credit for the comeback," he said. "A lesser team would not have made it. We were good to them (with turnovers), but they showed a stick-to-itiveness that was decisive in the game."