Georgia Tech 20, Maryland 7
In 60 minutes, Georgia Tech rendered Maryland's offense powerless, sparked a quarterback controversy and amplified doubts about whether the Terps can secure a fourth straight berth in a bowl game.
Most of the 52,733 fans, the fifth-largest crowd ever at Byrd Stadium, dispersed long before Georgia Tech's 20-7 victory over No. 23 Maryland yesterday was final. Afterward, Maryland players described the locker room as "solemn."
And when Terps Coach Ralph Friedgen emerged from it, following his team's first home loss in more than two years, he spoke in a somber tone and with glazed eyes. Maryland is 3-2 and likely will fall out of the top 25. More troublesome, the toughest portion of the schedule still awaits, and Friedgen declined to say who will quarterback his team next week, much less for the rest of the season.
"I'm going to do what I got to do to win football games," Friedgen said. "If that means changing people, firing coaches, I will do what I got to do."
In the fourth quarter, Maryland used a freshman quarterback behind center and a defensive end at tight end. Why not? Maryland's offense finished with 81 total yards, only 17 of which came in the second half. It was the Terps' lowest total since 1996.
"We held them to 81 yards total offense," Georgia Tech linebacker Chris Reis said. "I mean, come on, that's ridiculous."
Maryland quarterback Joel Statham had two fumbles, both of which were recovered by Maryland, and completed 6 of 14 passes for 36 yards, all in the first half.
Midway through the third quarter, Friedgen replaced the sophomore, who has 10 fumbles and seven interceptions this season, with Jordan Steffy, the touted freshman from Pennsylvania.
On his second possession, Steffy engineered a 12-play, 63-yard drive that concluded with a two-yard touchdown run by Sam Maldonado with 11 minutes 28 seconds remaining. Defensive end Shawne Merriman lined up at tight end during the drive that ignited the crowd and briefly gave the Terps hope they could extend their 13-game home win streak.
Too little, too late. And Friedgen afterward did not discriminate when assigning blame. "We got outcoached, we got outplayed, we got outhit, we got outhustled," said Friedgen, adding that "Joel just couldn't do anything right."
Statham and Steffy, who completed 5 of 9 passes for 38 yards, declined to speak to the media last night. Maryland left guard C.J. Brooks, asked if Statham should retain the starting job, said: "I don't know. Depends on who steps up. Depends on who will perform on a high level."
Friedgen, who has publicly supported Statham throughout his learning process, said he will thoroughly review tape before deciding if he should make a change. Should Maryland tap Steffy the starter, Friedgen said he will reduce the complexity of the offensive package. "I think from what I saw tonight," Friedgen said, "he has a good chance of getting in."
Just as Georgia Tech did in last season's 7-3 victory over Maryland, the Yellow Jackets pressured Statham with a relentless blitz that befuddled the Terps' offensive line with frequent movements.
Maryland's most notable first-half highlights involved the punter and kick returner. Adam Podlesh had five punts for an average of 50.6 yards. And returner Steve Suter broke off a 52-yard kickoff return and also broke the ACC career record for punt return yardage.
Georgia Tech had lost by more than 20 points in each of its past two games, and its offense was one of the least productive in the country. But the Yellow Jackets entered halftime with a 10-0 lead, prompting impassioned words from at least three Maryland players -- Brooks, Domonique Foxworth and Jon Condo -- in the locker room.
Georgia Tech took a 7-0 lead when Ball floated the ball into the corner of the end zone for senior receiver Nate Curry, whose left foot landed inbounds for the 11-yard catch.
"I told the kids last night that this would be a real test to see where we are, and if this is where we are, we're in trouble," said Friedgen, who again lost to the school at which he served as offensive coordinator. "We got to get a lot better than this if we want to get to a bowl game."