Terps escape with a win against UVA
COLLEGE PARK--If anything substantial comes of this 2013 Maryland football season, a major bowl victory or flirtation with the conference championship race, we might now point back to one play.
We might look back to Saturday’s game in College Park against Virginia and say, "That, that there!" is when Maryland's season was saved.
It was when with under seven minutes to go Terrapins wide receiver Deon Long came down with a miraculous pass from quarterback Caleb Rowe to convert a 3rd-and-22 with Maryland down six points, 26-20, and in danger of their losing a grip on a winnable game against a conference rival.
The play that had preceded it just two downs prior was nearly disastrous, a missed pitch that lost twelve yards after the loose ball was scooped up by running back Brandon Ross.
An incompletion set up 3rd-and-22 from the Maryland 40-yard line. And that’s how folk tales can begin.
“We had plenty of time. We were down by six points, you know, we really just had to stay poised,” Ross recalled about the huddle after the game. “Just focus on the next play and don’t worry about what just happened.”
Rowe lined up in the shotgun with four receivers split out wide and Ross to his left in the backfield. He snapped the ball and dropped back to pass.
“It was a fade comeback,” Long explained. “But the way they were playing it was the corner was hard and the safety came down, I guess he saw Caleb scrambling out.”
“We had a play and I was supposed to work toward the field, but I kind of got moved in the pocket a little bit,” Rowe said. “I stepped up to the right and saw Deon.”
But the play had changed because of the pressure. Long was floating. Ross had faded to the left of the play.
“He just converted [the route],” Rowe said. “That’s what got me.”
The play continued to unfold.
“The corner was sort of handling me a little bit and the safety was down,” Long said. “So I just ran as fast as I could.”
Long's complement on the outside, receiver Stefon Diggs was out of the play, too.
“I was coming across the field and I just saw him,” Diggs said. “I didn’t really look at the ball. I was looking at him the whole time.”
And then Rowe let it go.
“I mean, Deon’s a great, great player, a great athlete, and I just threw it up and gave him a chance to make a big play,” he said.
Ross was on the back side of the play.
“I think I was blocking on that play, I didn’t really get a good angle of it,” Ross said.
Diggs was locked in.
“I was looking at him the whole time and I watched him high point the ball and come down with it.”
“When I heard the crowd roar, I knew that he had came down with it,” Ross said.
"Usually he comes down with those," Rowe said.
“He gave me a chance to catch it, so I came through for him,” Long said.
“It was a fabulous catch,” said Maryland head coach Randy Edsall. “Those are the things Deon can do. If you put the ball in a position where he and Stefon can go fight and jump, they are going to be able to make some plays.”
“I was so happy,” said Diggs.
Maryland would score two plays later on a Rowe touchdown pass to tight end Dave Stinebaugh to put the Terrapins ahead, 27-26.
Virginia would drive one final time, but kicker Alec Vozenilek missed wide to the right from 42 yards out to allow Maryland to escape.
And so is the developing folk talk of “3rd-and-22,” which will mean little if Maryland cannot make something of this 2013 season.
The timing of this is important, too.
Having just lost 63-0 on the road to Florida State, a loss at home to a conference rival in the final
But it is also the most fertile grounds for history--history that consists of just one play--to be planted.
Maryland's season, after a big loss combined with a loss in a winnable game Saturday, could have sunken the season.
It took more than five weeks for a buzz to build around this Maryland football team and the past two alone could have almost completely wiped it out. But Deon Long saved it.
Will Long’s catch mean anything a few weeks from now? Could the Terrapins lose some games they ought to win?
Of course. But for now, until at least next Saturday when Maryland meets Wake Forest, there is still something special alive in College Park.