BLACKSBURG, Va. — C.J. Brown knew that he was largely to blame for the offensive woes that had seen Maryland lose four of five games, turning a once-promising season into one that was quickly slipping away.
The quarterback did something about it, running for 122 yards, including the winning touchdown in overtime, as the Terrapins became bowl eligible with a 27-24 victory against Virginia Tech on Saturday.
“I kind of had a chip on my shoulder coming in,” said Brown, who carried 23 times and also threw for 135 yards. “The offense wasn’t doing very good. That reflects on me. … They play a lot of man coverage. When they try to run with the receivers, it gives me a lot of running lanes. With my athletic ability, I thought I could outrun the defensive ends. I took advantage of that.”
Brown had runs of 38, 18, 16 and 18 yards, all on scrambles, hit Nigel King for a 16-yard touchdown and William Likely returned a punt 67 yards for the Terrapins (6-4, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who led 21-7 and then held on after the Hokies pulled even with 9:32 to play.
The loss damaged Virginia Tech’s chance of playing for the ACC championship. They started the game knowing if they beat Maryland and then Virginia next week, and if Duke lost one of its three remaining games, they would win the Coastal Division and a spot in the championship game.
Instead, it became a most forgettable Senior Day for Logan Thomas and 11 other seniors who trotted onto the field at Lane Stadium as players for the final time.
“I told the younger guys, ‘Just remember this day. It’s not the way you want to go out on your Senior Day, and don’t ever let it happen again,'” Thomas, who will leave owning many of Virginia Tech’s career records, said. “This is supposed to be a day you remember for the rest of your life.”
The Terrapins (6-4, 2-4) surely will.
After squandering a 21-7 lead, they held the Hokies the rest of the way through regulation, and then in overtime. A 15-yard pass interference call against Alvin Hill gave Virginia Tech a first down at the Terps 9, but Trey Edmunds ran for 2 yards, Thomas ran for 1 and then was sacked for an 8-yard loss, forcing Eric Kristensen to come on to kick a 31-yard field goal.
The freshman walk-on, who missed a 34-yard field goal earlier, had never attempted a collegiate kick before the game and was only elevated to the job this week after coach Frank Beamer dismissed regular place-kicker Cody Journell from the team for violating an unspecified rule.
Trailing 24-21, the Terps made quick work of the overtime.
Brandon Ross ran for 7 yards on first down, and 15 on second down, getting the ball to the Hokies 3. After Ross was stopped for no gain, Brown rolled left and dove for the left pylon.
“It was supposed to get to the tight end,” Brown said of the play. “I was just trying to make a play and reached for the pylon. Touchdown.”
Officials said the play was under review, even as the Terps mobbed their quarterback in the end zone, but the ruling came back quickly that the call stood, giving the Terps that sixth victory.
“C.J.’s a tough kid,” coach Randy Edsall said. “I think he likes to take some contact at times.”
The Hokies started crisply, driving 76 yards on their second possession to Trey Edmunds’ 3-yard touchdown run, then their offense went stagnant. They did just enough to pull even.
Thomas capped a 12-yard drive set up by Demitri Knowles’ 88-yard kickoff return with a 1-yard pass to D.J. Coles, and he finished a 65-yard drive with a 5-yard TD pass to Willie Byrn with 9:32 left.
Maryland went ahead 21-7 with the opening drive of the second half, and did it quickly.
With Virginia Tech no doubt geared to stop Brown’s running, he hit Amba Etta-Tawo for 43 yards to get the ball to the Hokies 16, and Nigel King for the touchdown on the next play. The play to King was originally ruled an incomplete pass or drop, but the officials overturned it after review.
Brown’s running ability gave the Terps a 14-7 lead. After he hit Etta-Tawo for 17 yards and a 15-yard roughing-the-passer against James Gayle was tacked on, Brown scrambled for 16 yards. He spiked the ball to stop the clock, ran 7 yards to get the ball to the 1 and scored on the next play.
Maryland drew even at 7-all in the second quarter when William Likely, who had returned the previous punt 37 yards, fielded a short kick at the 37 and went 63 yards for a TD. It was the second punt return TD against the Hokies this season; Alabama’s Christion Jones returned one 72 yards.
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