Maryland wasn’t even expected to stick around for long on Saturday afternoon, slated at 16.5-point underdogs to Virginia Tech on the road in Blacksburg. But leave it to a banged-up Terrapins team on a three-game losing streak to win an overtime thriller to attain--finally attain--bowl eligibility.
After weeks of struggles and an inability to finally get that sixth win, that changed Saturday as the Terrapins hung tough and stole one from the Hokies in a 27-24 overtime win at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.
Quarterback C.J. Brown, who has been hampered by injuries since Week 6 against Florida State, showed a sort of confidence that had not been on display since the dominating performances that comprise the first four weeks of the season.
Brown finished with only 135 yards through the air on 12-of-25 passing, but it was his scrambling ability that won the game for Maryland on Saturday. Brown rushed for 122 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns, including the three-yard scramble for a score that gave his team the win in overtime.
Maryland 27, Virginia Tech 24 (OT)
For as strong as Maryland closed out the first half, carrying a 14-7 lead into the break, the second half was not kind to the Terrapins. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas found his groove in the final 30 minutes and had his team tied at 21 late in the fourth quarter.
Maryland just about limped into overtime, almost lucky that Virginia Tech did not get another possession in regulation.
But the defense, a mainstay on Saturday, stood up again in the extra period. After a pass interference call gave the Hokies a new set of downs inside the 10-yard line, the defense finished off Virginia Tech’s drive with a sack and forced a field goal.
Maryland took the ball on the following possession and kept the ball on the ground, using running back Brandon Ross to get the team inside the five-yard line. Then it was Brown’s turn, as he had done all day, scrambling and extending for the touchdown to win it.
CJ BROWN SHOWS OLD CONFIDENCE
We hadn’t seen confidence like this from Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown since the team was going for 4-0 in Week 4 against West Virginia. That was before the injuries, the concussion and the midsection problems, back when he had an arsenal of offensive weapons at his disposal.
But after a slow start on Saturday, the Brown of old was back again.
Designed run plays for Brown were often stifled in the backfield or for a short gain, Brown’s creativity was seen most on plays that had broken down. As the Hokies got pressure in the backfield, Brown’s scrambling ability allowed him to break off some big gains, including runs of 38 and 18 yards.
DEFENSE PUTS ON BIG-TIME PERFORMANCE
While Maryland’s offense struggled through the first quarter and part of the second, it was the defense that kept the team’s head above water. As Virginia Tech forced two Maryland turnovers and dominated the first quarter, the Terrpin defense held strong.
Brian Stewart’s defense registered seven sacks on the afternoon, including one to stop Virginia Tech’s lone drive in overtime and force a field goal.
WILL LIKELY DEFINITELY A FACTOR
As Maryland’s offense struggled and defense continued to dig in and hold its ground, the team needed a spark to break through. That came in the form of a 64-yard punt return from cornerback Will Likely that tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter.
Likely has been returning kickoffs and punts full-time since wide receiver Stefon Diggs went down with a broken leg against Wake Forest and Saturday marked his first major breakthrough.