Bobby Ross brought dazzling passing, slashing runs and crunching defense back to Byrd Stadium yesterday. Unfortunately for Maryland, he brought it all back with Georgia Tech.
Ross used to prowl the Terrapins' sideline and he gave 31,941 Maryland partisans a sad reminder of days gone by as No. 23 Yellow Jackets dominated, 31-3, to stay undefeated and pointed toward an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with fourth-ranked Virginia.
It was Maryland's second straight blowout defeat; Michigan stomped the Terrapins by 28 last week.
Georgia Tech (4-0, 2-0 in the ACC) showed its usual dominant defense, which has not yielded a touchdown this season. At times, Georgia Tech seemed to be revolutionizing the game, trying to become the first defense to regularly station one of its players in the opponent's backfield.
That was sophomore linebacker Marco Coleman, who had half of Georgia Tech's 10 sacks of beleaguered quarterback Scott Zolak. Zolak lost 62 yards on the sacks and was mercifully removed from the game with more than seven minutes remaining. Hounded all afternoon, he suffered through a 16-of-33, 192-yard passing day.
"I thought if they threw the ball as much as they did they must have a good passing game; I didn't expect this," Coleman said. "I wasn't licking my lips before the game. I figured I'd just be tired from running upfield all the time."
Georgia Tech quarterback Shawn Jones's afternoon also ended early. The sophomore, who started the week on crutches because of a sore arch, humbled the Terrapins, completing 15 of 25 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. The yardage is a career high, as are running back T.J. Edwards's 97 rushing yards.
Georgia Tech outgained Maryland, 473 yards to 235 (Maryland lost 20 yards rushing). That was the most yardage given up by the Terrapins defense this season and the fewest gained by the offense. Maryland Coach Joe Krivak was so upset he stayed barely five minutes at a postgame news conference.
"You can't work in this business as long as I have and get whipped like that and not be angry or disappointed," he said, leaving the room.
The humilation was made even more stinging by the fact that the Terrapins (3-3, 1-2) entered the game intent on achieving a victory they believed would keep them in the ACC race and catapult them back to the bowl-bound, glory days they once enjoyed under Ross.
"I don't think we were reaching too far; if you're in a situation where you can make a game a big game you have to," said Maryland linebacker Scott Whittier. "You want big games, that's why you play, why you practice every day. Georgia Tech is just one of, if not the toughest team on our schedule. They just kicked our butts."
One of Zolak's sacks came on a futile attempt at running a flea-flicker; another gimmicky play -- a screen pass to wide receiver Gene Thomas -- netted one yard. The final series of the opening half was indicative of Maryland's afternoon. It began with a Zolak pass getting intercepted and returned for a touchdown by linebacker Eric Fry, but the play was negated when the Yellow Jackets were called for being offside.
Zolak was sacked on the next play and again two snaps later. Two plays after that, he threw the ball to cornerback Keith Holmes, who officials ruled was out of bounds. On the next play, safety Ken Swilling completed the hat trick, picking off a pass on the next-to-last play of the half.
Unlike their previous five games -- when the Terrapins moved the ball impressively but failed to score points -- there was little indication that they could do anything against a unit that entered the game ranked eighth nationally, third against the pass.
"Sometimes I felt like they knew what we were going to do, that they knew just what we were doing," said Zolak.
"I felt like we were playing right into their hands. . . . They may be the best defensive team we've faced but I couldn't tell because we didn't play that well ourselves."
After falling behind by 17-3 at intermission, Maryland's best chance to rally came early in the third quarter. An 11-yard punt return by Mike Hopson put the ball at Maryland's 44, and a 13-yard third-down pass from Zolak to Chad Wiestling moved the Terrapins to the Georgia Tech 42.
Maryland got only one more yard, and Dan DeArmas punted to the Yellow Jackets 17. After a holding penalty moved the ball back to the 9, Jones hit Emmett Merchant on a 27-yard pass play. But on the next snap, the quarterback lost the football on the exchange from center, and Lubo Zizakovic recovered for the Terps at the Georgia Tech 34.
However, on first down, Coleman sacked Zolak; on second a pass to Barry Johnson was ruled out of bounds and incomplete; and a third-down pass to Thomas was just beyond his reach. DeArmas punted to the 6, but Georgia Tech went 94 yards on a series that didn't last long enough to be considered a march. When Jones hit Greg Lester with a first-down, 40-yard touchdown pass, just 2:11 had elapsed.
"We worked hard all week and knew what would work against them," Jones said. "They had been stopping people on first down and getting them into trouble so we thought that we could mix them up by throwing a lot on first down then keep on mixing things up."
Ross never appeared confused. If he was at all tempted to hustle off into the home locker room after the game it would only have been to console Krivak after his demoralizing day.
"I think that was the longest game I've ever played," he said. "I was wanting this thing to get over with real fast."
So was Maryland.