A year ago Coach Ron Vanderlinden would have been satisfied with the way Maryland played No. 9 Georgia Tech tonight, staying close enough with an entertaining and effective offense to have a chance midway through the fourth quarter before losing, 49-31.
"But we're past the point of being in games," Vanderlinden said after the Atlantic Coast Conference matchup in which the teams combined for 697 yards of offense and Heisman Trophy contender Joe Hamilton accounted for four Yellow Jackets touchdowns. "It's time to win 'em now."
Hamilton threw three touchdown passes, two to wide receiver Dez White, and ran 41 yards for another score as Tech (3-1) evened its ACC record after a loss to top-ranked Florida State.
The game was the offensive explosion nearly everyone expected, with the teams combining for 73 points in the first three quarters.
"But never in my wildest dreams did I think we would give up that many explosions," Vanderlinden said, referring to many of Hamilton's 387 passing yards, his 41-yard touchdown run and nearly all of White's 215 yards on five receptions.
"It was plain and simple," said cornerback Lewis Sanders, who came up with his fourth interception in as many games and his second fumble recovery of the season. "We just didn't get the job done, made some mental mistakes that really cost us."
Maryland (3-1, 0-1) played well until Hamilton helped put matters out of reach midway through the fourth period. Redshirt quarterback Calvin McCall kept gaining confidence, junior tailback LaMont Jordan went over 2,000 yards rushing for his career and also threw a 68-yard touchdown pass and Guilian Gary was excellent on kickoff and a punt returns.
The Terrapins' problems began on the first play of Tech's second possession, when tailback Sean Gregory burst through a huge hole, outran every other Terrapins defender for the 48-yard touchdown that lifted the Yellow Jackets to a 7-0 lead.
But Vanderlinden's spirits started to soar almost immediately, when Gary fielded the kickoff and ran it back six yards shy of the end zone. Three plays later, Jordan bulled in from the one and Maryland had a 7-7 tie.
The Yellow Jackets began the next series on their 20--and had a 14-7 lead shortly after White caught a short pass, twisted past cornerback Renard Cox at about the 50 and skipped into the end zone after eluding Sanders and Cox inside the five.
That was midway through the first quarter--and from then until halftime the excitement only increased. The Terrapins would have scored a touchdown instead of having to settle for Brian Kopka's 32-yard field goal had backup wide receiver Doug Patterson thrown the ball farther on a trick play. He took a swing pass behind the line of scrimmage that drew the secondary toward him and left Jermaine Arrington very open at about the Yellow Jacket 25.
In practice all week, Patterson mostly had thrown that pass exceptionally well. This time, he was short and Tech was able to recover and tackle Arrington at the 18 after a 24-yard gain. With 5 minutes 31 seconds left before halftime, after Kopka missed a 34-yard field goal, Hamilton led the quick-strike Yellow Jacket offense to two touchdowns and a 28-17 lead. On the first, he caught Maryland's defense in a blitz and hit White with a lofted pass in the end zone from 29 yards.
Hamilton's next touchdown, a 30-yarder to Watkins on a crossing pattern with 18 seconds left, came two plays after a slumping Shawn Starner shanked a punt that went just eight yards. On its first possession of the second half, the Terrapins used McCall's passing and Jordan's running on an 80-yard drive that ended with fullback Matt Kalapinski's one-yard drive and narrowed Tech's lead to 28-24.
CAPTION: Georgia Tech running back Sean Gregory, left, celebrates his 48-yard touchdown run in the first quarter with Kelly Campbell.