Virginia Tech 28, Maryland 9
Virginia Tech arrived in College Park last night in a generous frame of mind, bearing piles of gifts for its interstate rival. The Hokies had turned over the ball twice in their first six games; last night they made four turnovers. The Hokies entered the game with a nearly flawless record in goal-line opportunities; last night, they botched two chances from the 1-yard line. The Hokies' kicker had made nine consecutive field goals; last night, he missed a chip shot from 20 yards.
Good manners, though, require occasional reciprocation from any proper host, and Maryland obliged. Nearly every gift was treated in kind, with a missed field goal attempt or a turnover or a stalled drive. And with Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick dancing through and around a helpless Maryland defense, the No. 3 Hokies kept their national title ambitions alive with a 28-9 win.
"We did some things well, we did some things we need to be very concerned about," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "I feel fortunate getting out of here with a win."
For Beamer, it was another convincing decision over his longtime friend, Maryland's Ralph Friedgen, whose team fell to 4-3, 2-2 in the ACC. But there were significant differences from last year's 55-6 rout over the Terps, another game played on a Thursday night before a national television audience.
That game had been decided by halftime; last night the Hokies (7-0, 4-0 ACC) led just 7-3 at the intermission. In last year's blowout Virginia Tech scored on bite-sized drives that resulted from Maryland turnovers; last night, the Hokies tramped up and down the field behind Vick, who threw three interceptions but ran for a career-high 133 yards.
"We got him flustered," Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson said. "But then he just flustered all the way down the field on us."
One touchdown drive went 80 yards, another 81. The Hokies' third score -- which began winnowing an announced crowd of 54,838, the second-largest in Byrd Stadium history -- capped a 99-yard drive.
As dangerous as Vick was on the ground, he was erratic through the air. All three of his interceptions came with the outcome still in doubt in the third quarter, giving Maryland every chance to spring an upset. Vick, in fact, described the night as one of the worst performances of his career.
None of the giveaways, though, cost his team a single point. The first interception led to a missed 38-yard field goal attempt. The second led to three plays, three yards and a missed 47-yard field goal. The third led to three plays, negative yardage and a Maryland punt.
"That was really the difference in the game," Friedgen said. "Any time you're playing a team of that caliber, and you have opportunities and you don't cash in on them, you're not going to win."
The Hokies' defense, ranked second in the country, was in fact impenetrable for much of the second half, in which the Terps gained a total of 96 yards.
That followed a bizarre first half in which both offenses moved down the field only to self-destruct within sight of the goal line.
Maryland, for example, spoiled a 60-yard drive when linebacker James Anderson stepped in front of wide receiver Derrick Fenner to intercept a pass from Sam Hollenbach. It was the first of two interceptions thrown by Hollenbach, who sprained an AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder later in Maryland's fruitless first quarter.
Virginia Tech also went scoreless in the first 15 minutes -- it was the first quarter the Hokies had failed to score in the entire season -- but their most egregious errors came on two goal-line chances in the second quarter. One chance culminated in a fourth-and-goal from the 1, on which running back Mike Imoh soared into the line of scrimmage, holding the football in front of him. Milton Harris's hit dislodged the ball; it was his third forced fumble of the year, and the first fumble the Hokies had lost.
On their next possession, the Hokies again moved the ball, and had first-and-goal at the 1 with time running down. A sneak by Vick was bottled up, a bungled handoff lost three yards and a screen to Imoh didn't reach the end zone. And as time ran out in the half, Brandon Pace -- who had made nine straight field goals -- clanked a 20-yard field goal attempt off the left upright.
The Terps streamed into the locker room in high spirits after that latest gift, before they began giving back.
"We thought we were about to knock off the No. 3 team in the nation," Wilson said. "We thought it was our game to lose."