COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Wild finish ends long ACC rivalry
COLLEGE PARK, Md.—The last three times the University of Virginia football team visited Byrd Stadium prior to Saturday, the Cavaliers came up with the difference-making plays to earn victories.
But in Virginia’s final Atlantic Coast Conference tilt with Maryland, it was the Terrapins who supplied the magic for the crowd of 41,077.
Maryland wide receiver Deon Long came down with a pivotal
47-yard reception on third-and-21 to set up the go-ahead touchdown with 5:14 remaining, and Cavaliers’ kicker Alec Vozenilek misfired on a 42-yard game-winning field goal as the Terrapins walked away with a thrilling 27–26 victory—their final conference matchup with the Cavaliers before heading to the Big Ten in 2014.
“That will make you feel a few years older,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said of the heart-stopping win.
It was the third straight defeat for the Cavaliers (2–4, 0–2 ACC) as Maryland (5–1, 1–1) bounced back from a 63-0 drubbing to Florida State.
Afterward Virginia lamented Long’s key reception and having to settle for four field goals during six trips inside the Terrapins’ 20-yard line.
On the missed game-winner, Virginia sophomore quarterback David Watford attempted to set up Vozenilek by centering the ball in the middle of the field on third down, but it didn’t work.
Vozenilek, who is Virginia’s starting punter and backup kicker, had made all six of his attempts this season prior to the miss.
London said he doesn’t regret forgoing a more aggressive approach and passing when the Cavaliers reached Maryland’s 25-yard line.
“I wouldn’t characterize it as being conservative you’ve got to give Maryland credit,” London said. “They did a good job defensively on some things we tried to do. It came down to one last opportunity and I guess it was wide right.”
The Cavaliers had chances to put the game away.
Vozenilek’s fourth field goal came after the Terrapins muffed a punt for the second time. It set Virginia up at Maryland’s 17 yard-line, but the Cavaliers failed to convert a first down and settled for Vozenilek’s 26-yard field goal to take a 26–20 lead with 7:11 left in the game.
“We’ve got to have a little bit of a killer instinct,” said Virginia senior offensive lineman Luke Bowanko, who started at center for the first time this season Saturday. “That’s a touchdown or bust drive. When you leave points on the board and give the other team an opportunity to win the game, it’s a prime example of it right there. It’s frustrating.”
That drive became even more of an issue on Maryland’s ensuing possession. The Cavaliers forced third-and-21 after Maryland sophomore quarterback Caleb Rowe mishandled a toss to running back Brandon Ross for an 11-yard loss.
It appeared the Cavaliers would have an opportunity to seal the game with a clock-killing drive, but instead Rowe dropped back and heaved a bomb in Long’s direction. He came down with it in between Virginia cornerback Drequan Hoskey and safety Anthony Harris.
Two plays later Rowe, who made his first career start in place of C.J. Brown (concussion), connected with tight end Dave Stinebaugh to put Maryland ahead by the final margin.
Hoskey said he and Harris “misjudged” the ball on Long’s reception. London said his defensive backs have “got to go up and make that play.”
“He just made a great catch,” Rowe said. “Deon is a great player and I have all of the trust in the world in him. I just gave him a jump-ball and he came down with it.”
Rowe passed for 332 yards and a touchdown. Ross amassed 169 total yards (88 rushing, 81 receiving) and two rushing touchdowns.
The Cavaliers racked up 505 yards of total offense. Watford played perhaps his best game of the season as he completed 27 of 44 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown.
Virginia junior tight end Jake McGee hauled in eight passes for 114 yards, including a 4-yard score. Cavaliers’ running back Kevin Parks added 162 yards of total offense (112 rushing, 50 passing) and a 6-yard touchdown run.
Virginia won the turnover battle 3–0 and it still wasn’t enough.
“We gave great effort and it came down to the last play,” Watford said. “We just have to keep working. We have a lot of positives to learn from this game. Just being able to move the ball so well was a positive. We just have to capitalize on those short yardage opportunities and kick less field goals and score more touchdowns.”
Vozenilek connected on field goals of 28 and 18 yards in the first quarter.
His first field goal came after the Cavaliers were set up by Maryland punt returner William Likely’s mishandled punt that Darius Lee recovered.
His second field goal came at the end of a 12-play, 79-yard drive. Parks was stopped for no gain on third-and-goal from the 1.
“They put everybody on the line,” Parks said. “Even though they did that we’ve still got to be tough I’ve got to get in there regardless [even] if I have to jump over the pile, leap and leave no doubt. Obviously that didn’t happen so this is the result.”
The Cavaliers will try to snap their skid when they host Duke Saturday. Maryland visits Wake Forest the same day.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526