Maryland's 33-21 victory over Virginia at Byrd Stadium yesterday did not enable the Terrapins to finish the regular season exactly as they had dreamed four months ago when some forecasted a run at the national championship. But it did give Maryland its third straight Atlantic Coast Conference football title and a more-than-respectable 8-3 record.
It also was the 14th consecutive victory over Virginia, which pulled to within 23-21 on the first play of the fourth quarter before Maryland quarterback Stan Gelbaugh completed a record-breaking day by passing 40 yards for a touchdown to Ferrell Edmunds to end any sense of suspense.
Maryland Coach Bobby Ross said his team's fourth straight regular season with an 8-3 record "has been very tough, no doubt about it. The preseason recognition put some pressure on our kids, but they hung in there."
Much the same could be said of yesterday's game, in which Maryland's 23-7 halftime lead dwindled to two points before the Terrapins scored twice more.
Gelbaugh completed 14 of 25 passes for 198 yards, enabling him to set single-season records for yards passing (2,475) and total offense (2,385) previously held by Boomer Esiason (2,322 and 2,290, respectively, in 1983).
Gelbaugh didn't throw an interception, wasn't sacked, and in fact wasn't even touched by a defender. "My kind of day," Gelbaugh said with a smile.
So it was, also, for tailback Alvin Blount, who rushed 28 times for a season-high 186 yards and one touchdown; and for Mr. Touchdown, Rick Badanjek, who ran for 76 yards and scored two more touchdowns for a career total of 49 in 47 games.
Virginia (6-5, 4-3 in the ACC) did some running itself, even without the ACC's player of the year, tailback Barry Word, who had been suspended for academic reasons. Kevin Morgan rushed for 129 yards, and Howard Petty had 124. And even though the Cavaliers put together two dazzling rushing drives to make the game close after three quarters, the lack of a good passing game hurt.
Don Majkowski completed only seven of 21 passes for 72 yards and threw two late-game interceptions to Keeta Covington, a Virginia native.
The biggest play of the game might have come about three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Maryland had extended its lead to 30-21 on Gelbaugh's pass to Edmunds. But Virginia was driving again. The Cavaliers had crossed midfield and had second and six, when defensive guard Tommy Parker rushed through and stopped Petty for a three-yard loss.
By itself, Parker's tackle doesn't sound so impressive. But Majkowski, who didn't complete a pass in the first half, was forced to throw on third and nine.
He threw incomplete again, and Virginia punted. Maryland (6-0 in the ACC) strung together three first downs, held the ball for nearly six minutes, and got a 40-yard field goal from Dan Plocki with four minutes left to seal the victory and the ACC championship.
It looked early as if the game would be a typical Maryland rout of Virginia. Virginia did score first. Petty and Morgan, running right at Maryland, moved the ball down field for a four-yard touchdown from Petty that made it 7-0.
But Maryland scored on three straight possessions, beginning with a two-yard plunge by Badanjek. The Terrapins threw only once on that drive, an eight-yard pass to Edmunds. It shouldn't have taken that long, but Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof clipped at the end of what otherwise would have been a 56-yard touchdown run by Blount.
The next drive, which gave Maryland a 14-7 lead five seconds into the second period, came only two plays after Majkowski fumbled.
Blount carried eight yards to the 25, and Blount the rest of the way on the next play.
The highlight of the next drive was a 33-yard pass from Gelbaugh to Abdur-Ra'oof that set up a one-yard score by Badanjek. The two-point conversion, attempted after a snapping snafu, failed, but Maryland still was ahead, 20-7.
Virginia's two long drives -- 83 yards and 69 yards -- made it close. But as Gelbaugh said, "When we put our minds to it and concentrated, we pretty much moved the ball at will."
Virginia Coach George Welsh summed up things more than adequately when he said, "I think our offense has been doing okay. We're just not geared to outscore them."