Pick Six Changes Momentum

William Likely's interception of Terrel Hunt and subsequent return for a touchdown was the turning point in Maryland's 34-20 victory over Syracuse on Saturday.

Maryland was clinging to a 24-13 lead over Syracuse inside the Carrier Dome. But the Orange had already come back from a double digit deficit earlier in the game. It was late in the second quarter and the Orange offense was, once again, on the move. Quarterback Terrel Hunt had just hit Jarrod West down the sideline for a 51-yard gain setting up a first down inside the Terps' 20-yard line.

Two plays later, the direction of the game changed. Instead of a late first half score by Syracuse to create a tight contest heading into intermission, William Likely intercepted Hunt's aerial offering and returned it 88-yards to pay dirt.

“Coach called a great play," Likely said. "He told me to make a play on it. Once I saw two go up the field I had to squeeze one, and that’s what I did. I was shocked, but I just saw the green grass.”

Adrian Flemming was running an option route. The key is for both he and his quarterback to read coverage the same way. The danger is that when the two see things differently, it can lead to a disaster. In this case, that is exactly what happened. Flemming had an option to run a slant or an out depending on the coverage.

Seeing Likely playing zone, Flemming opted for the slant. Hunt, incorrectly, read man and threw the out. As Flemming took his route to the inside, the ball sailed in the other direction to the waiting arms of Likely.

“There was a miscommunication but Flemming did the right thing," offensive coordinator George McDonald said. "This game goes back to we have talked about which is emphasizing communication and focus. In that play the communication broke down and it resulted in a negative play.”

The play completely changed the feel of the game. Instead of a 24-16 or 24-20 score heading into halftime, Maryland took a 31-13 advantage into the locker room. A close game turned into a route. The Orange never recovered from that play and now have to look towards correcting their mistakes against a top-10 opponent next week.

"We kept fighting," head coach Scott Shafer said. "I thought the kids continued to play hard, but we did not play smart and take care of the almighty football. And when you don’t do that you lose games.”

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