The Maryland defense came in to Saturday’s game against UVA ranked #7 in the country, and despite allowing some big runs to Virginia throughout the day, the best defense in the ACC put the clamps down when they had to en route to a 27-20 victory over rival Virginia.
The defense picked up the slack for the offense, which finished with negative-2 yards of rushing for the game. In fact, the longest run of the game was quarterback Perry Hills’ six-yard touchdown run that sealed the win for the Terps. Hills again proved his toughness in the fourth quarter.
Hills led the team down the field to start the fourth quarter en route to that six-yard touchdown run, but it proved to be enough. Hills also had a solid day through the air, and while sometimes erratic, he is progressing. He finished 14-for-26 with 237 yards and a touchdown through the air. Although, 60 of those yards came on a short throw to Stefon Diggs who turned it into a big game.
Diggs was able to have a huge impact on the game early on. He returned the opening kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown and also had the big passing play. However, Diggs was held quiet throughout long stretches of the rest of the game. Either by poor play-calling or a solid defensive effort, Diggs only had three touches in the second half (2 receptions and one rushing attempt). It seems unfathomable that the team’s best offensive weapon only gets three touches in the second half, but Maryland went conservative on offense by the second quarter trying to protect a 17-point lead and got away from what was working, mainly Diggs.
However, it all came down to the Maryland defense. After the offense sputtered out and followed with a short punt, the defense came up big and held off the resurgent Virginia offense behind Michael Rocco and forced them to four straight incompletions. Maryland was able to run out the clock after that to hold on to the win in Charlottesville.
Defensive linemen A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano were making plays all over the field today, Francis even blocked a field goal. Linebacker Kenneth Tate was active in his first true start of the year. Darin Drakeford has become a terror off the edge in Defensive Coordinator Brian Stewart’s 3-4 scheme, notching two sacks and a forced fumble.
The win improves Maryland’s record to 4-2, and 2-0 in the ACC. Meanwhile, the loss drops Virginia to 2-5, and 0-3 in the ACC. The five straight losses for Virginia give the Cavaliers as many losses as they had in 2011. For Maryland, it doubles their win total and puts them two games away from bowl eligibility, a feat most experts weren’t expecting.
Maryland have their homecoming game against N.C. State next week at 3:30 pm. Hopefully next week, fans who cannot be at the game can avoid missing half the first quarter as the extra half hour won’t force networks into making a decision on the games. This is after Comcast Sports Net, despite having a second network — CSN+, which was not airing another game — decided to leave the Richmond vs. New Hampshire game on for it’s final 9:46.
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