Propelled by strong performances in the first and fourth quarters Saturday the Maryland Terrapins defeated the Virginia Cavaliers, 27-20, in a Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at Scott Stadium. The Terps' (4-2, 2-0 ACC) scored a combined 27 points in the two quarters and were able to hang on to a much-needed victory over the Cavaliers (2-5, 0-3).
There are a lot of things to dissect here, from Maryland's troubling offensive showing, even in victory, to their still-impressive defense. And we'll get to them in time; today, some, and throughout the week for sure. But one thing stands above the rest: Maryland is 2-0 in ACC play, and 4-2 on the season. No one, except crazy people, had them 2-0 to start the season, much less two games away from bowl eligibility with still half the season left to play.
The star of the game was, again, freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who opened with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and caught four balls for 89 yards. Diggs' performance helped place Maryland in very good position in the ACC standings.
And yet, here they are. With Boston College - a likely win - still on the schedule, plus winnable contests against N.C. State, Georgia Tech, and UNC on the horizon, postseason play is now likely for Maryland. No, it's not pretty, but who cares about the aesthetics? Wins are wins are wins, and Maryland's darn close to having six of them.
Next Saturday, the Terrapins host the N.C. State Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1 ACC) at Byrd Stadium (3:30 p.m). That game will be broadcasted on ESPNU, and could determine if Maryland will be a threat to contend for the ACC Atlantic Division crown.
After 12 minutes of largely no action, Virginia took advantage of Maryland's post-first quarter complacency, driving down the field on the back of Kevin Parks and a finally-effective Phillip Sims. Sims found E.J. Scott in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard score, bringing the Cavaliers within seven.
On the first play of Maryland's next drive, the zone-read exchanged between Perry Hills and Albert Reid went awry, forcing a fumble that Virginia recovered. The Cavaliers moved down the field quickly, and Ian Frye hit a 22-yard field goal to make it 17-13.
Kevin Parks has been extremely effective for Virginia, rushing 13 times for 127 yards, while Sims is still struggling (10/23 for 117 yards). Perry Hills is 9/18 for 187 yards and a score, and has found consistent success from Stefon Diggs (three receptions, 88 yards), Marcus Leak (two receptions, 41 yards) and Justus Pickett (three receptions, 31 yards). The Terps have still been unable to get anything going on the ground, rushing 19 times for -3 yards, but they're driving now after a 34-yard kick return from Diggs and a nice scramble by Hills.
After an action-packed first quarter, the rivalry game between Maryland and Virginia has slowed down considerably in the second quarter, as the Cavaliers have started to claw back.
Virginia looked to be driving down the field for the first time all game, as a 36-yard pass to Zachary Swanson ended the first quarter. After three stops by the Maryland defense, the Cavaliers had to go for a field goal. Drew Jarrett kicked the attempt horribly low, and A.J. Francis got a hand up there to block his second kick of the season.
After a Terrapin punt, Virginia was able to drive down the field and get on the board. 38 yards from Kevin Parks, 9 from Perry Jones and 4 from Clifton Richardson brought them down the field, but they had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Ian Frye, making it 17-3 Maryland.
For Virginia, there seemed to be an internal struggle between the success of their run game and the failures of their passing unit. Throughout the quarter, Jones and Parks would get first downs before being undone by batted balls or sacks on the part of Phillip Sims.
Perry Hills was 0/3 in the quarter, and the Terps have zero yards rushing on 15 carries. Stefon Diggs had one more touch in the quarter - a 13-yard kick return, but Maryland wasn't able to do anything on offense. Luckily for them, Virginia looks like a very accurate reboot of the Terps' season last year.
Despite Comcast Sportsnet's unwillingness to broadcast the first half of the first quarter, Maryland has had just about a perfect start in Charlottesville, and they lead the Cavaliers by a score of 17-0
Stefon Diggs returned the opening kick 100 yards for a touchdown, and after four Virginia offensive plays (including a big tackle for a loss by Jeremiah Johnson), true freshman Anthony Nixon got his first career interception, off a ball from Phillip Sims that was tipped, and Maryland quickly turned that into a score. After a first down by Diggs, Perry Hills lofted a screen pass to Justus Pickett. The running back cut inside and ran uncontested to the end zone for a 20-yard score, giving Maryland a 14-0 lead.
After a singular Cavalier first down, the Terrapin defense forced another punt, and it was again time for Diggs to shine. After a great catch by Kevin Dorsey gave the Terps a first down on their own 28 (the punt went to the Terps' 2), Diggs caught a 60-yard catch, weaving his way through the Cavalier defense and juking his way down near the goal-line. Brad Craddock hit a 33-yard field goal, making the score 17-0.
Hills has been great, completing five of six passes for 116 yards and the score to Pickett, while the Terps have not had to run the ball once. Devin Burns even came in for a two-play stint at quarterback, rushing once for three yards. Diggs has 164 yards on three touchdowns, and the Terps are dominating in every way in Charlottesville.