Virginia 48, Maryland 13
Just when it seemed everything was falling into place for the Maryland Terrapins, the 18th-ranked Terrapins suffered a resounding loss that left players and coaches alike shaking their heads.
Having received the help it needed to claim a share of the ACC title and possibly a berth in the Bowl Championship Series, Maryland was beaten soundly in nearly every aspect by Virginia, 48-13, before 58,358 at Scott Stadium.
The loss ended Maryland's eight-game winning streak and allowed Florida State to clinch the ACC title despite losing to North Carolina State, 17-7. Instead of being in position to tie the Seminoles for the conference championship and possibly earn an invitation to the Sugar Bowl by beating Wake Forest on Nov. 30, the Terrapins' postseason prospects are up in the air, with the Peach or Gator bowls the most likely destinations.
"It's a bad feeling," Maryland linebacker E.J. Henderson said long after Virginia's fans had swarmed the field in celebration at game's end. "We had a big opportunity, and we blew it. It's something we're going to look back on the rest of our lives."
While Maryland (9-3, 5-2 ACC) was left to wonder what had gone so wrong, Virginia's postseason plans brightened considerably with its largest margin of victory against a ranked opponent. After their second consecutive upset victory, the Cavaliers (8-4, 6-2) clinched at least a share of second place in the conference and likely are headed to the Tangerine or Peach bowls.
"This is a very good win for our team," Virginia Coach Al Groh said. "It was a wonderful thing for [the seniors] to walk out of this stadium for the last time with a sense of accomplishment."
The outcome was stunning. Maryland had played just one close game during its winning streak, and Coach Ralph Friedgen made sure his players knew just how much was on the line. Friedgen was not pleased with the team's practices this week, but after marching down the field to take a 7-0 lead and threatening again shortly thereafter, the Terrapins seemed to be on their game.
A handful of plays late in the first quarter and early in the second quickly changed things. Instead of going for it on fourth and inches, Friedgen decided to try a field goal, a decision he later second-guessed. Nick Novak's 28-yard attempt was blocked.
Virginia kicked a field goal to get to 7-3. Then came perhaps the game's key play. Quarterback Scott McBrien faked a handoff, allowing wide receiver Scooter Monroe to get behind the defense along the left sideline. Monroe was in the clear at the 50-yard line, but McBrien's pass fell through his hands.
"I knew I was pretty wide open," Monroe said. "I knew it was a touchdown."
Having failed to convert two excellent opportunities to score, Maryland's offense suddenly went silent. And its defense, which entered the game ranked sixth nationally, allowing 14.8 points per game, could not stop Virginia. Cavaliers quarterback Matt Schaub, who was 23 of 27 for 249 yards, continually threw short passes to running backs and tight ends that turned into long gains as the Terrapins missed tackles.
"We didn't come out to play," defensive end Durrand Roundtree said.
Virginia took a 10-7 lead when running back Jason Snelling got behind linebacker Leroy Ambush for a 27-yard touchdown catch. After Chris Downs fumbled for Maryland, Schaub threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to running back Wali Lundy, who eluded an attempted tackle by Ambush and got into the end zone to make it 20-7.
Even when Maryland's players were in the right position, they could not make plays.
On the opening possession of the second half -- after Friedgen informed his team of the Florida State score -- Virginia standout wide receiver Billy McMullen took a handoff on a reverse but ran right into Roundtree. However, instead of an 11-yard loss, McMullen squirmed free and lofted a pass to Michael McGrew behind the defense for a 37-yard touchdown. A few minutes later, on third and 21, Lundy took a screen pass on the right side and was untouched until he lunged for the final yards of a 24-yard touchdown. It was 34-7, and the rout was on.
"I'm crushed," Friedgen said. "How many times do you get an opportunity like we had?"