Terps Comeback Falls Short Against WVU

Turnovers proved to be too costly for the Terps as they could not close out a comeback against WVU.

It has been quite some time since the college football scene has been as alive in College Park as it was in the Terps (1-0, 1-0 ACC) 32-24 thrilling victory over Miami on Labor Day. The program has received more media over the past two weeks than it has in the last decade. Whether it's the flashy new uniforms, Danny O'Brien's Heisman-like numbers, or the overall hype surrounding this rejuvenated squad, there is no denying Maryland football is on the rise.

After a hectic bye week, the Terps hit the field again on Saturday for a border-war showdown with rival #18 West Virginia (2-0, 0-0 Big East). It was a battle of first year coaches as Randy Edsall and his new-look team was the first real test for a Mountaineers team led by rookie coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers won their first two matchups easily, blowing out Marshall 34-14 in a weather-shortened game in Week 1, and destroying Norfolk State last week, 55-12.

Saturday was the 48th all-time meeting between the teams, a series that the Mountaineers lead by a slim margin of 24-21-2. West Virginia has dominated the series as of late though, winning the last 5 matchups between the two teams.

The Terps stormed the field at a packed Byrd stadium, accompanied by the blaring “Back in Black” by ACDC, as they chose to wear their all-black combination for the matchup.

Maryland took the ball first, in front of a boisterous fan-base but promptly went three-and-out.

Junior quarterback Geno Smith and his high-powered Mountaineers offense then took the field, showcasing the effectiveness of the screen play and driving swiftly down into Terps' territory. Just when everything seemed to be clicking for Smith, a forced fumble on the Terps' 30 by Matt Robinson and recovered by Cameron Chism, halted the WVU drive. O'Brien and the Maryland offense took advantage of this new life, driving down the field for a 25-yard field goal from Nick Ferrara to take a 3-0 lead with 7:14 remaining in the first.

Smith and the Mountaineers shined in their next possession, rattling off 5 first downs, and driving into the Terps' red zone. Facing a 3rd & 13 on the Maryland 24, a pass interference call on senior DB Cameron Chism gave the Mountaineers a fresh set of downs. They quickly capitalized on a 9-yard run by Vernard Roberts, giving West Virginia a 7-3 lead.

On the next possession, O'Brien was intercepted by safety Terence Garvin, who ran it 37 yards back into the end-zone giving WVU a quick 14-3 lead with 1:44 remaining.

Another Maryland three-and-out gave the ball back to the Mountaineers who were firing on all cylinders. The first play of the second quarter featured a beautifully thrown ball from Smith to wide out Tavon Austin, who took the ball down the Maryland sideline for a 47-yard gain. Maryland was able to weather the storm however, and got the ball back in their territory.

A 22-yard burst from D.J. Adams took the Terps into WVU territory, but an interception by Darwin Cook on the following play ended any momentum O'Brien and the Terps may have had building.

On the following possession, a West Virginia fumble at midfield seemed to give some life back to the Terps, after an official challenge confirmed the call on the field. Yet, the Maryland offense, which was nothing less than anemic at times, couldn't capitalize, running the ball 3 straight times and ending with an incomplete pass on 4th down.

Smith promptly marched his team down the field, using an illegal hands to the face penalty and a 10-yard TD run by Andrew Buie to cap a 5 play, 67-yard drive that only took 1:09 off the clock and gave West Virginia a commanding 21-3 lead with 8:15 remaining in the half.

Both teams couldn't get anything on the board in each of their next respective possessions, with Nick Ferrara failing to convert on a 48-yard field goal and WVU coming up inches short on a 4th and 3 near the Maryland 40.

Terps fans were offered a shimmer of hope on the following possession however, as Danny O'Brien began to settle in, converting 3 straight 20+ yard passes, ending with a beautiful scramble and toss to receiver Kevin Dorsey for a touchdown with 2:32 remaining in the half. A late 34-yard field goal by Tyler Bitancourt ended the first half, with West Virginia taking a 27-10 lead into the locker room.

Danny O'Brien and his often-explosive offense looked anything but it in the first half, with the sophomore quarterback going 14-25 for 112 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions. O'Brien seemed very uncomfortable in the pocket, often having to scramble and throw on the run. Davin Meggett rushed 9 times for 40 yards and Kevin Dorsey led all receivers with 4 catches and 32 yards.

Geno Smith on the other hand looked like a Heisman candidate in the first half, going 21-28, for 232 yards. Tavon Austin had 7 receptions for 101 yards and Andrew Buie rushed 5 times for 44 yards. The Mountaineers offense moved at an incredibly rapid pace, posting scoring drives of 1:44, 1:09 and 2:26.

West Virginia picked up right where they left off in the first half, going on a 7 play, 78 yard drive in 3:19, capped by a gorgeous 34-yard toss from Smith to Stedman Bailey to give the Mountaineers a 34-10 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. Maryland looked promising at times on their first possession of the second half, racking up 4 first downs and finding their way into the red zone. The Terrapins have struggled mightily this season in the red zone, and their woes continued as a 15-yard illegal block below the waist penalty pushed them back beyond the 20. They were able to inch back near the goal line, but a failed 4th down conversion left them with nothing as the Mountaineers regained possession.

The Maryland defense forced a rare punt on the next WVU possession, giving the ball back to the Terps' offense. Davin Meggett took control of the possession, rushing three straight plays, ending on a 20-yard run into the end zone. A failed 2-point conversion however left the Terps staring at a 34-16 deficit.

The following kick-off featured a bit of excitement, as WVU kick returner Stedman Bailey was flipped over by his own teammate and lost the ball, which was promptly picked up by the Terps and run into the end zone resulting in a thunderous roar from the Terps' faithful. The play was reviewed however, and it was found that Bailey was in fact down as the officials had originally ruled. The Terps' defense absorbed the momentum the offense had built however and gained back possession on an outstanding sideline interception by defensive back Dexter McDougle.

O'Brien went back to work as the Maryland offense took the ball deep into Mountaineers territory, with an 18-yard connection to Matt Furstenberg taking the Terps to the 6-yard line. On the next play, a 6-yard TD run by D.J. Adams brought the score to 34-23.

Maryland's defense did their job again on the following possession, getting the Mountaineers to go three-and-out as the 3rd quarter drew to a close. O'Brien picked up where he left off, starting off the final quarter with four straight completions, and then handing the load over to Meggett and Adams late in the drive. Another red zone completion to Furstenberg brought the Terps to the WVU 2-yard line, where D.J. Adams pounded the ball into the end zone on the very next play. Edsall and staff decided to go for the 2-point conversion, and Davin Meggett spun and clawed his way into the end zone, pulling the Terps within a field goal, trailing 34-31.

The Mountaineers offense, which had been quiet much of the second half, was now faced with a thunderous Byrd crowd. Cool under the pressure however, Smith kept his team focused. A 21-yard completion to Stedman Bailey gave West Virginia some solid momentum, a play that was followed up by another completion to Stedman, this one going for 9 yards. A sack by Andre Monroe left the Mountaineers with a 3rd & 9 and a deafening crowd breathing down their necks. The noise didn't rattle Smith however, as he dropped back in the pocket and completed a 13-yard pass to Ryan Nehlen for a first down. The offense worked its way down within the 10-yard line but the Terps defense, who had an outstanding 2nd half, was able to limit West Virginia to a 21-yard field goal, making the score 37-31 with 4:42 remaining.

O'Brien and the Terps had almost worked themselves back from a 24-point deficit at this point; needing a 74-yard drive for a score and extra point to take down the Mountaineers. The drive started off with a 15-yard run by Meggett, which was promptly erased by an illegal procedure call that took the Terps back to the 21-yard line. Two completions from O'Brien to Logan then brought the Terps to a 4th &1, prompting a timeout by Edsall. Out of the timeout, a halfback slant run by D.J. Adams gave Maryland the first down. After a short run by Meggett, O'Brien completed passes to Dorsey and Logan, each giving the Terps a fresh set of downs and driving deeper into Mountaineers territory. After two incomplete passes the Terps faced a second down with 1:20 remaining. O'Brien dropped back and was flushed out of the pocket. After avoiding danger he set his feet and fired a laser to the center of the field right into the hands of West Virginia safety Eain Smith for O'Brien's third interception of the game, this one coming with 1:13 remaining.

After a Maryland timeout, three kneels by Geno Smith ended the game with the final score: West Virginia - 37 and Maryland - 31.

O'Brien finished the game 34-52, for 289 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Davin Meggett had an exceptional game in the backfield, rushing 19 times for 114 yards and 1 touchdown. Kevin Dorsey was the leading receiver with 9 catches for 79 yards and 1 touchdown, followed closely by Furstenberg who caught 7 passes for 70 yards.

Geno Smith finished the game at 36-49, for 388 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Andrew Buie rushed the ball 7 times for 51 yards and 1 touchdown. The Mountaineers receiving core was the story of the game, with 3 receivers tallying over 100 yards: Tavon Austin (11 rec., 122 yards), Stedman Bailey (8 rec., 113 yards) and Ivan McCartney (8 rec., 101 yards).

Maryland posted a total of 477 yards on the day (188 rushing, 289 passing) while West Virginia managed 480 yards of total offense (92 rushing, 388 passing).

Of the many subjects dealt with after the game, one was the impact the absence of Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler had on the offense, which looked less than impressive in the first half. “Missing those two receivers didn't mean a thing,” said Edsall. “What happened was we turned the ball over, and I think once we started to spread the ball around we were better and those are the things we always have to do. For us to be successful, we have to utilize everybody out there on the field regardless of who is on the field for us.”

The uncharacteristic play of Danny O'Brien was of great concern to Terps fans after the loss, as the usually accurate quarterback struggled quite a bit in the first half. The three interceptions were especially troubling to Maryland fans and it was something that both the coach and quarterback addressed in their respective news conference. “I love Danny O'Brien,” stated Edsall. "Danny played hard. He played his heart out, but he made a few mistakes. He's always going to get criticized, but he is a great young man and he'll get better from watching this film. He will make the corrections. He is out there playing as hard as anyone and I love the kid to death. I thought maybe he tried to put a little bit too much on himself. He needs to go out there and just let it happen. I told him in that situation at the end it was third down and he probably could've taken off and run the ball and gotten a first down. He is still learning.”

"You can't turn the ball over three times at the quarterback position and expect to beat a ranked team,” said a solemn O'Brien. “That's really what it comes down to. I felt like the line did great, we ran the ball well, but you just can't turn the ball over. We had a chance to win there at the end because the defense held them to three and kept us in it. I had to be on the same page as my receiver and we probably would've scored if I hit that.”

Edsall took no consolation in the monumental comeback that almost was. “We had quite a few errors out there but we still had a chance to win the ball game and we didn't get it done,” said an upset Edsall. “That [the comeback attempt] is what I expect out of these kids. I don't expect anyone to quit. On a Randy Edsall coached football team there are never going to be any quitters. If there is someone who is going to be a quitter they aren't going to be on this team.”

Kevin Dorsey had a very simple explanation for the Terps' first half woes, in which they gave up 24 points and only mustered 3 of their own. "We just weren't executing. Obviously we came out the second half and were able to execute for some points and gain some momentum. It's just something we have to do in the beginning of the game."

With the loss, Maryland falls to 1-1 and 1-0 in the ACC. They face Temple at home next week. The Mountaineers improve to 3-0, 0-0 Big East with the win and take on SEC powerhouse LSU next week.

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