-- Virginia's biggest play of the game almost blew up in its collective face.
Wide receiver Michael McGrew thought it had when he saw teammate Billy McMullen fighting off Maryland defensive end Durrand Roundtree, seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. The play called for McMullen to take an end-around handoff and throw down field to McGrew, but it seemed McMullen wasn't going to get the pass off.
McGrew watched in surprise as McMullen, a 6-foot-4, 208-pound senior, spun out of Roundtree's grasp and ran a few steps toward the line of scrimmage, then jumped and threw a line drive. Standing alone at the 15-yard line, McGrew gathered in the pass and scampered into the end zone. Up 27-7 lead two minutes into the second half, the Cavaliers were on their way to a decisive 48-13 win.
"If you wanted to encapsulate Billy McMullen's career at Virginia, that's it," U-Va. Coach Al Groh said. "He just fought himself out of trouble with the will to get it done. . . . When you give him a job, whatever it is, it always gets done very well."
Nose tackle Andrew Hoffman said the 37-yard pass set the tone for the second half, during which the Cavaliers outscored No. 18 Maryland 28-6. "We feed off that kind of thing," Hoffman said.
McMullen also caught seven passes for 92 yards -- numbers that have become almost routine for a player who holds Virginia's career records for receptions and receiving yards and has more catches than all but two players in ACC history. A successful pass, on the other hand, was anything but automatic for him. In 48 games as a Cavalier, McMullen had thrown two passes before tonight -- both last season. One was completed for a loss of seven yards. The other fell woefully incomplete in the season finale against Penn State.
"The one against Penn State was pretty bad," McMullen said with a smile. "This one made up for it a little bit."
The Terrapins had McGrew covered when McMullen received the handoff from quarterback Matt Schaub, but they surged toward the line of scrimmage when it looked as if McMullen might run with the ball after shaking off Roundtree.
"It kind of worked out for the best that he almost got tackled," McGrew said.
Virginia had shown a fondness for trick passes this season, including touchdown passes thrown by tight end Heath Miller and tailback Wali Lundy.
"It's something we should have been ready for, but we just didn't have the people in the right spot at the right time," Maryland linebacker Leroy Ambush said. "The gimmick plays that they do, that's something that we prepared for well all week."