Terps Can't Finish

At some point, Maryland's inability to close out games was going to result in a last-minute, heartbreaking loss. It finally happened Saturday night, and every scenario Maryland has nearly avoided in past games, it could avoid no more.

There was no crucial fourth down stop, no forced turnover, nothing that stopped Virginia from driving 90 yards in the final 7:42. The final yard was the decisive score—a leaping touchdown run with 16 seconds left--and Virginia stunned the 52,782 fans at Byrd Stadium, winning 18-17.

Unknown Cavalier running back Mikell Simpson ran for 152 yards, including the final touchdown, and caught 13 passes for 152 yards. Quarterback Jameel Sewell was efficient and elusive, making play after play to keep drives alive. Maryland's defense gave up yards in bunches and couldn't make the big tackle to get off the field.

It's something that's been all too prevalent for the Terrapins this season, and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen couldn't offer up an explanation for it after the game.

"What can I tell you? We just didn't make any plays," he said.

They had their chances, too. With Virginia facing a 3rd and 15 from Maryland's 35 and just over a minute remaining, Kevin Barnes was called for pass interference, giving the Cavs a fresh set of downs.

It was one of three of the final eight plays on Virginia's game-winning drive that was influenced by the officiating. On a 4th and 4 four plays later, Simpson appeared to have stepped out of bounds before extending for a first down. The play was reviewed, but the camera angle didn't show conclusive evidence to overturn it.

On Simpson's touchdown run, Friedgen thought the ball had come loose before it crossed the goal line, but again it stood after review.

"I never see anybody ever overrule anything anymore," Friedgen said.

"There ain't no purpose in having instant replay if they ain't going to get it right," said Erin Henderson, who had a game-high 18 tackles.

It didn't look like it would have to come down to that, though. In what has become the Terps' modus operandi of late, they jumped out to an early 14-3 lead. It looked like the offense hadn't missed a beat despite being without right guard Andrew Crummey. On its first three drives, Maryland racked up 93 rushing yards.

But then it happened again. Starting left guard Jaimie Thomas fractured his right fibula mid-way through the Terps' second scoring drive early in the second quarter. Phil Costa had to slide over to Thomas' spot, and Jack Griffin came in to replace him at right guard.

When the media asked Chris Turner and Edwin Williams about Thomas' injury after the game, it was the first they had heard of it. They both responded the same way—first shock, then disbelief. The realization is harsh.

"We've got five offensive linemen right now, that's it," Friedgen said.

After Thomas' injury, Maryland only had six first downs in its remaining six drives. Turner was efficient, hitting 13-of-19 passes, but it was only for 103 yards. Pinned on the Maryland 2 yard line at the end of the third quarter, Turner was sacked by Virginia defensive end Chris Long for a safety, one of his 10 tackles. Friedgen took blame for the call—a 7-step drop pass pattern that left the All-American Long matched up one-on-one.

"I thought we could get it off in time but we didn't," Friedgen said. "That was bad coaching."

Meanwhile, Virginia's offense flourished. Simpson, who had -9 rushing yards coming into the game, took the Maryland coaches and players by complete surprise. On film they saw him in trick-play packages, but he was never in for extended possessions. Friedgen admitted they knew nothing about him.

It's safe to say that next week's opponent will know a little more. Simpson, who is listed as a wide receiver, had nine plays of over 10 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He was a frequent recipient of screen and shovel passes, two plays that Maryland struggled to stop Saturday.

"People hurt us with screens, draws and boots, and that's what they threw at us tonight," Friedgen said. "I think our guys were playing a little tentative there. It looks to me like everybody's waiting for somebody else to make a play instead of wanting to make their own play themselves."

It hurt them to the tune of 439 total yards of offense for Virginia, nearly doubling Maryland's output. Yet, the game was still in the Terps' hands.

Virginia's final drive started at Maryland's 10 yard line because of Friedgen's decision to punt on a 4th and 1 on the Cavs' 42. He figured that they'd have to go almost the length of the field to win. He put the game on the defense and expected that like so many times since last season, it would come up with the stop and preserve a narrow win.

It didn't. Friedgen could only think afterwards about the one that got away.

"I really felt like we should have won that game."

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