Terps Rally Past Cavaliers

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Kevin Ogletree can’t haul in this 2-point conversion pass late in the contest.

The olden tale of the “The Tortoise and The Hare” warned of days like this. You know how the moral of the story goes. Don’t let up just because things are going really well. Always push through to the finish because that pesky turtle will keep plugging away.

Virginia fans just wish the fairy tale didn’t come to life right before their eyes at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers raced out to a 20-0 halftime lead against the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday, only to watch the visitors surge ahead with 28 unanswered points en route to the 28-26 win.

“That was certainly very disappointing, not only in the outcome – well, most certainly in the outcome,” UVa coach Al Groh said. “I feel bad for the players, who put so much into it for this week. I feel bad for the fans, who put so much into the game, who did a lot to lift the energy level of the team. We appreciate that. It’s tough circumstances for them as well as it is for the players.”

As has been the case far too many times this season, the Cavaliers couldn’t get the necessary effort from all three phases – offense, defense, and special teams – in one game. Against the Terps, it was the special teams that had a below average outing and two critical plays catapulted the visitors from the outhouse to the penthouse in a matter of minutes.

“Clearly, the game hinged on two plays that made it very easy for them to get back in the game,” Groh said. “The fumble recovery and the very short punt.”

Near the midpoint of the third quarter, Virginia was still commanding the flow of play after building a 20-0 halftime advantage. The defense had just forced a Maryland punt after allowing only 17 yards on the possession. Things were looking good.

Then Adam Podlesh uncorked a 45-yard punt that sailed high in the air where Emmanuel Byers waited at his own 5-yard line. Typically at that point on the field, the receiving player is supposed to let the ball go – especially if an opposing player is already in the area. Byers elected to field the kick, though. It proved to be a crucial mental error.

Byers mishandled the ball and it bounced free on the turf where three Terps pounced all around the Hoo junior. Maryland’s Isaiah Gardner recovered the muffed punt on the 1-yard line and Lance Ball scored on the first offensive play to cut the lead to 20-7 with 8:43 to play in the third quarter.

Chris Long put up six tackles in the loss to Maryland.

“I didn’t get my feet set. The ball was really high and I took some steps back and I shouldn’t have. It was just a lack of concentration,” Byers said. “Now, I just have to forget about it and show up at practice ready to play and get better.”

“It was an unfortunate decision. I’m sure he feels the same way,” Groh said. “We really had emphasized on a number of occasions during halftime to be alert, to avoid all those occasions that would let the other team easily get back into the game.”

“I think the punt really gave us momentum. We got our first points and we kept building, building, and building,” Maryland linebacker David Holloway said. “We kept feeding off of it.”

Virginia had a chance to squelch any burgeoning comeback hopes on its next two offensive possessions, but it couldn’t come up with a sustained march down the field. On the first possession, the Hoos elected to punt on 4th-and-1 at the Terps’ 44-yard line and on the second, a three-and-out stalled inside the 20.

That’s when the second special teams play entered the equation. Chris Gould , who handles all the kicking duties for UVa, faced a reasonably heavy rush from the Terrapins. Gould stood near his own goal line as the snap sailed back from the 15-yard marker. He ended up with a 16-yard punt that left Maryland in excellent position at the Cavs’ 31.

The Terps took advantage. They needed just six plays to get into the end zone as Sam Hollenbach rolled out on a bootleg keeper to his right in the early stages of the fourth quarter. That 3-yard touchdown made the score 20-14. Just as importantly, it pushed the mythical momentum meter squarely into the red – Maryland red.

“We started out strong. We obviously got up 20 to nothing. It seemed like it was only a couple key plays in the second half that hurt us, a muffed punt return, and a 16-yard punt. That really swung the momentum to Maryland and started the downhill shift.”

The downward spiral continued when the Terrapin defense forced another three-and-out to get the offense the ball back quickly. Then, the visitors consecutively came up huge on three of the next four plays. Facing 2nd-and-17 after a Chris Long sack, Keon Lattimore caught a screen pass for 13 yards. Next: Hollenbach completes an 11-yard pass to Danny Oquendo on 3rd-and-6 when he finds his receiver in the area behind a blitzing Tony Franklin.

The third and final big play of the drive? Lattimore takes a handoff, bursts through the right side of the line, and roars past any secondary help. The result is a 56-yard touchdown play that gave the Terps a 21-20 lead. Moments later, Erin Henderson returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown and the Hoos couldn’t make it out of the 28-20 hole.

Jameel Sewell threw 2 TD passes and rushed for a score as well against Maryland.

UVa linebacker Clint Sintim took the blame for the Lattimore run. Truth be told, there had to be a lot of players out of position and/or late on reacting to the play in order for him to break through the line and to the outside as freely as he did. Still, Sintim, who was taking the loss pretty hard, said it was his job to force the tight end into the hole a little more.

“I’m going to take almost full responsibility for that play. It was a basic lead play or something of that nature and the tight end blocked out on me and I didn’t do a good enough job of squeezing it down and he just rolled right through that seam and took it all the way to the house,” Sintim said. “That’s just an aspect of my game that I was supposed to be good at, but didn’t really perform well enough. I take that upon myself.”

The Terps’ rally over the last 24 minutes of action overshadowed a strong outing from Cavalier quarterback Jameel Sewell . Some observers even pointed to this as the redshirt freshman’s “breakout game” thanks to 243 yards and 2 touchdowns passing and 92 yards and 1 TD rushing. Sewell, on the other hand, wasn’t buying into the terminology.

“In a breakout game, you don’t throw an interception for a touchdown,” Sewell said. “It’s another game. You just have to stride forward from this so we’ll just come out and try to beat UNC on Thursday night.”


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