Maryland collapses, loses to WFU 31-24

Alphonso Smith weaved back and forth down the right sideline, carrying in his hands Jordan Steffy's would-be game-clinching pass. He carried it the length of the field for a touchdown in what was the first step of the worst collapse—by far—in coach Ralph Friedgen's seven years at Maryland.

Every chance Maryland had to halt Wake Forest in its fourth quarter surge was blown. On the last one, Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner found John Tereshinski in the back of the end zone with 3 seconds left to tie the game. Overtime came and went as if it was a foregone conclusion and Wake Forest won, 31-24.

"I've got so many [losses] in 39 years," Friedgen said. "This is probably in the top 10."

Before Smith's 100-yard interception return late in the third quarter, it looked like just a matter of the game clock running out for Maryland to win its first ACC game decisively. The Terrapins (2-2, 0-1) led by three touchdowns and Darrius Heyward-Bey's 54-yard run on a reverse took them down to Wake Forest's 3-yard line.

A first down pass intended for Dan Gronkowski was thrown short and wide and hit off his hands. A second down run went nowhere. With a chance to put the game undoubtedly out of reach, Steffy went to the shotgun on third down with five targets split out wide.

Wake Forest's defense looked confused and up to the snap players continued to move around. Steffy thought he saw an open Lance Ball and a 31-3 lead in the left corner of the end zone. Instead, Smith stepped in front and the momentum Maryland had built for three quarters immediately shifted.

"Obviously we may not have had a chance to win the football game [without that play]," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "I think it would have made it nearly impossible…"

It still seemed at the very least improbable—down two touchdowns without the ball to start the fourth quarter. But Maryland's offense completely shut down in the quarter, getting just two first downs.

Steffy, who had managed the game well before the interception, attempted just two passes in the fourth quarter, both incomplete.

"I'm worried I got a young quarterback and he's thrown an interception and didn't want to do it again," Friedgen said.

Particularly indicative of that was late in the fourth quarter when Steffy rolled out and instead of throwing for a potential first down, ran back to the middle of the field and slid down. Maryland punted two plays later and Wake Forest had nearly two minutes to drive 80 yards for the tying score.

"I was trying to create an option where he could run [or] pass for it," Friedgen said. "I don't know if he was thinking to kill the clock or stay in bounds. We needed to make the first down there."

Wake drove those 80 yards on what Friedgen and linebacker Erin Henderson called a "tired" defense. For the first three quarters it held Skinner and the Demon Deacon attack to just 201 total yards and forced three turnovers. The other focus of the defense, Kenneth Moore, was held to just 21 yards rushing before the final quarter.

The third down conversions against Maryland that West Virginia thrived off of last week were a non-issue for most of the game Saturday—Wake Forest converted only 6 of 15. But the offenses inability to give the defense a breather played a big role in Wake Forest's marches down the field in its comeback.

"I saw the speed on their team, we were having trouble staying with it [in the fourth quarter] and I didn't see that in the first half," Friedgen said. "I knew the longer the game went the worse it was for us."

"We all get tired, that's part of playing football," Henderson said. "The good players are able to get through that and I don't think we were able to do that today."

In overtime, it took Wake just three Josh Adams runs to score. If it wasn't clear already the momentum was entirely on Wake's side and that Maryland was completely gassed, it was when Adams coolly sped through gaping holes and easily marched into the end zone. Maryland's chance in the extra period felt completely hopeless and two short runs and two sacks later, Wake Forest rushed the field, having completed its second biggest comeback in half a century.

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