BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Maybe Maryland's luck is changing.
The Terrapins' attitude certainly seemed to have changed because there wasn't anyone on their sideline that didn't think the Terrapins were going to win after they won the coin toss to start overtime Saturday at Virginia Tech.
"I knew if the defense could hold them to three (points), we could get that seven," said Terps quarterback C.J. Brown.
And that's just what Maryland did in pulling out an improbable 27-24 overtime win against the Hokies, who seemed to be on their way to sewing up the ACC's Coastal Division prior to today. Maryland, meanwhile, finally improves to 6-4 overall (2-4 in the ACC) and attains bowl eligibility after failing and generally failing miserably in three straight games.
"You talk to these young men and they're not going to be satisfied with six wins," said coach Randy Edsall, who saw his team win for just the second time on the road in three seasons, and for the first time after Oct. 13 during his tenure, and this time at one of the ACC's toughest venues.
The Hokies (7-4, 4-3) were 6-1 at home this year and came in 31-8 all-time in ACC games in Lane Stadium. Maryland's last win in Blacksburg was in 1949, and the Terrapins had dropped five in a row to Tech, including the last four since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004.
"This was a beautiful win for us," said Edsall.
Coming off the 20-3 non-showing against Syracuse at home last week, Edsall and all the players available after the game talked about "looking in the mirror," and turning things around to the way the Terrapins played during their 4-0 start this season.
Maryland led 21-7 in the third quarter despite two turnovers and never seemed to lower their heads when things went against them – two turnovers, a couple of replay calls and late Tech scores to tie the game.
"The players epitomized effort all day," said Edsall. "We had the resolve during the week to turn things around."
And when Maryland won the toss and Tech got the ball first in overtime, a defense that turned in its best effort in ACC play, kept it going.
"We didn't have any doubt in our mind," said linebacker Matt Robinson. "We had to regroup (after at pass interference in overtime) but we knew we could keep them out of the end zone."
The Terrapins seemed to have a stop on that overtime possession but a late pass interference penalty on Alvin Hill gave the Hokies a first down at the nine. On third-and-goal, Andre Monroe busted up the middle and sacked Tech quarterback Logan Thomas for an 8-yard loss. Freshman Eric Kristensen came on to kick his first field goal, hitting a 31-yarder to put the Hokies ahead.
But Maryland, which had just two first downs in the fourth quarter, got a seven-yard run from Brandon Ross, and then a 15-yard explosion around the left side off a great block from Ryan Doyle, to take the ball down to the three. Two plays later, Brown dropped back, saw tight end Dave Stinebaugh covered and pull the ball down and beat the Hokie defense to the left pylon, extending the ball in for the score as the Terrapins rushed the field.
Maryland would have to weather another replay decision but again, maybe the tide is turning for this team.
"I saw (Stinebaugh) was covered and I just tried to make a play," said Brown, who had 257 yards of total offense against the Hokies' nationally-ranked defense. "I knew it was a touchdown. None of my other body parts hit the ground, and I controlled the ball. I was worried about getting a concussion everyone was jumping on me and hitting me on the head."
Brown was actually fearless all day, from a long run early on when he took a big hit and bounced right back up, just part of Brown's game, now again healthy for the first time since Florida State and the concussion he suffered.
"I think it sends a message to the other team when you take a big hit and get right back up," he smiled after the game. "I've taken hits a million times."
Brown rushed 23 times for 122 yards and a score, and completed 12-of-25 passes for 135 more yards, and interception and a score.
"They play a lot of man coverage," said Edsall. "Things were happening early in the game and I said to C.J., ‘Don't be afraid to run.' We thought we could run the option against them because of their man coverage. It opened things up for him to run the ball. That's when C.J. is the most effective, when he can use his legs as well as his arm."
While Brown delivered for the offense, it was the defense that was a major part of the story, too, making the Hokies punt 10 times (the most since their opener against top-ranked Alabama) and limiting Tech to just 57 yards rushing on 38 attempts. The sack was back, too, Maryland registering a season high seven, or more than the Terrapins had claimed the last five games combined.
"We were just going, going," said Monroe of the rediscovered pass rush. "We really worked on it and practice and harped on it. We made a decision that we were really going to get off and get these dudes."
Edsall explained that the linemen were freed up to penetrate more on this day, create some things and they came through. Maryland had 11 tackles for loss, including career highs of three sacks for Monroe and two for Quinton Jefferson. Marcus Whitfield and Yannick Ngakoue also shared a sack. Monroe and safety Sean Davis each had nine tackles to lead the team.
"Our defense did a great job early on," said Edsall. "They kept us in there, kept us going."
After yielding over 300 yards – and usually much more – in every ACC game, Maryland held Virginia Tech to 264. Thomas passed 31 times, completing 19 for 210 of those yards and two Tech scores but the Terp defense made the Hokies one-dimensional. They were 4-of-16 on third downs.
"The first couple of games we were causing turnovers, getting sacks, getting tackles for loss, today we just came out and we knew what we had to do," said Robinson. "We hadn't been stopping the run and we hadn't been good on third down but we were able to get off the field. We just stepped up to the plate."
The teams alternated punts most of the third quarter before the Hokies finally mounted a march to start the fourth period. Thomas made some huge plays after being stymied by the Maryland defense much of the afternoon. He hit Willie Byrn for 15 yards, but got sacked twice in a row – first by Jefferson and Monroe, and then by Ngakoue. But on third-and-24, Thomas got protection and found Dimitri Knowles across the middle for 38 yards.
Trey Edmunds ran 14 yards, and three plays later, Logan hit Byrn for a five-yard score on a fade route to make it 21-21, with 4:08 to play. Byrn led Tech with six catches for 69 yards.
Defensive end James Gayle sacked Brown to force Maryland to punt with 7:48 to play.
The Terrapin defense got the ball back, though, when Issac Goins had wide receiver Joshua Stanford blanketed on third down.
The Hokie defense returned the favor, linebacker Tariq Edwards' sack of Brown forced another Nathan Renfro punt, this one 43 yards with no return to push Virginia Tech back to their own 40.
The Terrapin defense was up to the challenge. Monroe and Jefferson combined for another sack and a heavy pass rush by Ngakoue forced Thomas to run and he was stopped for a short gain to force another punt by A.J. Hughes, who averaged 44.4 yards on his 10 punts.
Ross ran for a first down and a Brown 11-yard pass to Nigel King took the Terps beyond midfield. A second down screen to Ross looked like it might break big but Edwards made a great play to stop Ross for a yard lost. A third down pass to Amba Etta-Tawo down the left sideline was in his hands but the redshirt freshman receiver couldn't hang on as he tumbled out of bounds.
King had six receptions for 60 yards and a score, and Etta-Tawo, four for 69 yards. Ross chipped in 11 carries for 75 yards, his best game since 88 yards against Virginia.
After a 50-yard punt by Renfro, his 10th for a 41.5-yard average, Thomas took a knee to run out the clock and force overtime.
The Terrapins were not going to be denied.
"We sat down and said ‘hey, look, this is where we are,'" said Brown. "We had a decision to make, this was a tipping point in the season. We could shut it all down like we have in the past and go Oh-for, like we have in the past toward the end of the season or we could step up and come down here and make a statement."
The Terps, who had deferred the choice of possession to the second half, had the lead and got the ball to start the second half. Picking up where they left off in the first half, the Terrapins zipped 78 yards in five plays for a 21-7 lead.
Brown hit King for 18 yards and a first down to start the drive, and then lofted a beauty deep down the left sideline that Etta-Tawo hauled in for a 43-yard gain to the Tech 16. On the next play, Brown lobbed the ball to the right corner and King made a catch in the corner for the score at 12:58, though a replay had to overturn an official's incomplete ruling on the field. King was stripped going out of bounds. He had already maintained possession inbounds.
The celebration was short-lived on the Maryland sideline because Knowles took the ensuing kickoff up the gut 88 yards before Hill cut him off and Sean Davis made a tackle at the 12-yard line. Monroe sacked Thomas but on third down the big quarterback hit Byrn for 13 yards to the one-yard line. Two plays later Thomas rolled right and found tailback J.C. Coleman for a one-yard score at 10:03, to bring Tech back within 21-14.
The Terrapins finished the first half strong. Taking the ball just 52 seconds before the half, Brown guided the Terrapins 56 yards in five plays to give the Terrapins a surprising 14-7 lead. The drive started, Brown finding Etta-Tawo for 17 yards plus a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Gayle. Brown scrambled for 16 yards to the 8-yard line, then seven more to the one.
Before the Tech defense could make substitutions, and with the clock ticking down below 20 seconds and no Maryland timeouts, Brown charged up the middle behind a strong push. Sal Conaboy and guards De'Onte Arnett and Michael Dunn got movement for the one-yard score with just 17 seconds left in the half.
Following a punt return touchdown by Will Likely, the Maryland defense forced Tech to punt for the fourth straight time when L.A. Goree and Sean Davis stopped Coleman for no gain on third-and-short. Tech punter Hughes got some measure of revenge when Likely couldn't handle his punt and it rolled to the Maryland six.
Ross ripped off a 30-yard run around the right end behide some solid blocking. When Brown scrambled 18 yards on a third down, the Terrapins were across midfield. Brown got 11 more on a keeper, but then Jacquille Veii was stopped for a one-yard loss, and Brown was sacked for a seven-yard loss on third down, Albert Reid diving on his fumble but the Terrapins knocked out of field goal range.
After a touchback, Jefferson's sack of Thomas forced another punt, the fifth in a row. Hughes kicked away from Likely, out of bounds at the Maryland 44, setting up the frantic drive just before the half.
Early in the second quarter, the Terps got a big play when Likely took Hughes' 37-yard punt back 37 yards with a nifty run up the right sideline. The momentum didn't last long, though. Brown tried to go deep, stepped up to avoid the rush and then let loose a long wobbly pass that cornerback Brandon Facyson came off his man and made a diving interception of at the Tech 4-yard line at 10:51.
The Hokies pounded the ball off their goal line but Likely had a perfectly-timed hit on Knowles to force an incompletion and a punt. Hughes uncorked a 42-yarder this time and Likely made a stutter-step move and then shot up the middle. He made four Hokies miss and scored to complete a 63-yard play and tie the game 7-7 at 7:47. It was Maryland's first kick return for a score this season.
"He over-kicked the coverage and I had a chance to look downfield," said Likely. "I seen everybody was trying to run to the field side because that's where they thought I would go. I just had one guy to beat."
Tech Takes Early Lead
The Hokies went 76 yards on their second possession to take a 7-0 lead at 8:47 on Edmunds three-yard run. The big plays were a facemask penalty on Goree, part of a 26-yard gain on a screen pass, and Thomas finding tight end Kalvin Cline wide open across the middle for 31 yards into the red zone.
Maryland had averted disaster on the previous series when a swing pass to Ross was ruled an incompletion. The Hokies had scooped the ball off the Lane Stadium turf and dashed for a possible score but the official's ruling on the field was upheld in review, even as the Terrapins got off another play before the game was halted.
Following the Tech score, Brown mishandled a shotgun snap, resulting in a seven-yard loss, and the Terps were three-and-out. Tech got the ball at midfield but Robinson made a big hit on Coleman for a two-yard loss. But Thomas found Byrne for 21 yards to convert a third down.
The Terps got good pressure on Thomas on the next third down and held, forcing a 34-yard field goal attempt by Kristensen, a freshman making his first appearance following the Hokies kicking their kicker off the team this week. Kristensen's kick glanced off the upright.
Given that break, Brown made a big third down play, dashing 38 yards on a scramble into Tech territory. Brown hit Etta-Tawo on a sideline route for 11 yards and another third-down conversion. The gritty quarterback seemed to have another first down in the red zone but a review discovered King had been stripped by Kendall Fuller on his way down after a seven-yard gain. The Hokies took over at their own 10 to thwart Maryland's first scoring threat.
Meanwhile the Terrapins defense continued to play solid, forcing punts on the next two Virginia Tech possessions. Robinson made another solid play in coverage and Thomas had four straight incomplete passes at one point.
It was Maryland's first overtime game under Edsall. The last overtime game was Sept. 12, 2009 in a 38-35 win over James Madison in Byrd Stadium. The bowl-eligible Terrapins return to College Park for their home finale next week, hosting Boston College.
Maryland Shocks Virginia Tech in OT
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