Maryland escapes Georgia Tech, but not injury

Maryland's last three games have more or less followed the same script: jump out to a big lead early and try to hang on as the momentum shifts and the lead dwindles. The only difference has been the conclusion.

Today's ending: Georgia Tech place kicker Travis Bell can't quite hook in a go-ahead 52-yard field goal with under a minute left in the game and Maryland escapes with a 28-26 win before 47, 527 on a humid day at Byrd Stadium.

The Terrapins couldn't escape without two significant injuries, though. Right guard Andrew Crummey, the senior All-American anchor of Maryland's line, suffered a broken fibula early in the second quarter and will likely miss the rest of the season. Rick Costa, who was starting at WILL linebacker in place of the injured Erin Henderson, had to be taken to the hospital with a neck injury after he and Carlos Feliciano banged helmets.

Costa was moving as he was carted off the field and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he will be "fine." He was released from the hospital Saturday night and will be in a neck brace for a couple of days, a Maryland official said.

"We're kind of getting thin right now," Friedgen said. "We were fortunate to win this game."

It didn't look like Maryland (4-2, 1-1) would need any good fortune after the first 18 minutes. Chris Turner, making his first start, had his way with Georgia Tech's heralded defense early. His first completion was a 78-yard touchdown strike to Jason Goode on a pass that was actually intended for Isaiah Williams.

"I though, ‘what is going on,'" said Turner, who was looking for Williams on the backside of his read. "[Goode] made a great play and those are the things that change games."

On the next two drives—both of which ended on a Lance Ball touchdown run—Turner hooked up with Darrius Heyward-Bey for gains of 44 and 47 yards. With a 19-yard pass to Danny Oquendo on the second drive, Turner had 5 completions totaling 196 yards. He eclipsed Maryland's previous long pass play this season of 39 yards three times in the first half.

The most yards a Maryland quarterback has thrown for against Georgia Tech under Friedgen was 206 by Shaun Hill in 2001, which Turner tied on his first pass of the second half.

His lone glaring mistake came right before the half when he was sacked and fumbled into the hands of Georgia Tech defensive end Darrell Robertson, who returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. Friedgen said after the game that Turner had called the wrong play. He was supposed to call for Oquendo to run a fake slant pattern over the middle and come back.

"We had a timeout and I said it to him about three times and then he went in there and called the slant and they had in covered," Friedgen said.

Maryland held a 21-10 lead at half, but the momentum had changed sides, similar to last week against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights scored two touchdowns right before the half to erase Maryland's 14-3 lead.

Maryland punted on its opening drive of the second half and Georgia Tech (3-3, 1-3) continued its comeback. Yellow Jackets quarterback Tyler Bennett, who struggled with accuracy in the first half, had completions of 16, 14, 15 and 12 yards on the drive. Tashard Choice's 1-yard touchdown run capped off the 8-play, 65-yard drive and cut the lead to 21-17. Choice, who Friedgen called "a heck of a back" after the game, had 135 yards on 32 carries.

Maryland came right back on the next drive. Turner converted two 3rd-and-longs in Maryland territory and Ball did the rest. He accounted for the final 44 yards on the drive, highlighted by a 30-yard run where it looked like he was stopped at the line of scrimmage. He bounced outside and was knocked out of bounds at the Georgia Tech 9 yard line. Three plays later he leaped into the end zone for his third touchdown of the game and 21st of his career, tying him for 6th on Maryland's career rushing touchdown list.

"I'm starting to hit my stride," said Ball, who finished with 86 yards. "In the beginning of the season I had a little turf toe [injury], I was banged up a little bit, but now I'm healed [and] feel great."

Georgia Tech responded with a field goal and Maryland went three-and-out. The Yellow Jackets then marched 80 yards on 10 plays, but with a little luck. Choice fumbled short of a first down on a 3rd-and-2 play, but it was recovered by fullback Mike Cox who went down right at the marker to continue the drive. Three plays later, Bennett hit Demaryius Thomas for a 39-yard touchdown. Thomas was Tech's leading receiver with 9 catches for 139 yards.

Friedgen attributed some of Bennett's second-half success to missed coverages by the linebackers. Henderson and Costa's absences forced the linebackers to play positions they weren't accustomed to and that resulted in coverage breakdowns. Bennett finished the day with 309 passing yards, 202 coming in the second half.

Another Maryland three-and-out gave the Yellow Jackets a game-winning drive opportunity against a tiring Maryland defense.

Behind Choice and back up running back Rashaun Grant, Georgia Tech drove to Maryland's 25 yard line with 1:21 remaining in the game. Two runs went for no gain and left tackle Andrew Gardner was called for holding on 3rd down. That took Georgia Tech back to the 35, and the 3rd down run there went for no gain.

Bell, whose career long field goal was 51 yards, lined up from the right hash for a 52-yard attempt. It started well right, but kept hooking and hooking. Ball, kneeling on Maryland's sideline, didn't have a good angle, so he waited for the crowd's reaction.

They erupted. It was wide right. Maryland needed a first down to seal the game, and Ball delivered. The Terrapins escaped, again. Barely.

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