WINSTON-SALEM Six games into its last football season as an ACC program, Maryland remains an enigma.
Will the team that shows up at Wake Forest’s BB&T Field on Saturday be the one that beat West Virginia 37-0 in Baltimore on Sept. 21 to improve to 4-0?
Or will it be the team that saw its bubble burst in a 63-0 pounding Oct. 5 at Florida State for the worst Maryland loss in two decades?
The best evidence of what coach Jim Grobe and the Deacons can expect might be from the most recent game. Saturday, in their final showdown against longtime rival Virginia, the Terps bounced back with a 27-26 victory in College Park, Md., when Virginia’s Alec Vozenilik missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt with 10 seconds left.
“Well, that’ll make you feel a few years older,” Terps coach Randy Edsall said during his postgame address. “But I’ll take it.”
In outlasting Virginia with a replacement quarterback. Maryland displayed, if nothing else, a resilience it lacked in its first two seasons under Edsall. The Terps stumbled home at 2-10 (1-7 ACC) in 2011 and finished 4-8 (2-6 ACC) in 2012, enraging a fan base that had grown accustomed to success with Ralph Friedgen as coach.
No one, least of all Edsall, knew how the Terps would respond after the debacle in Tallahassee.
“The way it ended, it couldn’t have ended any better for us,” Edsall said after the victory against Virginia. “Our guys kept battling.
“I thought they would battle, but I was very, very concerned because of what took place a week ago. Until you go back out and play again, I don’t think you ever know what will happen.”
The Terps lost more than a game in Tallahassee. C.J. Brown, a senior quarterback who started the first five games, suffered a concussion that sidelined him against Virginia. Saturday he was signaling in plays to Caleb Rowe, a sophomore making his second college start.
Rowe was far from perfect – he completed 18 of 34 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown but was sacked three times.
He and the Terps appeared in deep trouble, trailing by six midway through the fourth quarter, after a bad pitch and an incomplete pass resulted in a third-and-22.
But Rowe delivered what might have been the game’s biggest play, scrambling to his right and heaving a long pass that a leaping Deon Long hauled in at the 13 for a 47-yard gain.
“I probably shouldn’t say this,” Rowe said, “but Deon ran the wrong route.”
Long denied the claim. Edsall said that Long’s athleticism on the play was undeniable.
Rowe “put the ball in a position where Deon had an opportunity to go and make the catch,” Edsall said. “It was a fabulous catch.”
Rowe capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to a diving Dave Stinebaugh with 5 minutes, 14 seconds left, and Maryland went ahead 27-26 with the extra point. That proved to be enough when Vozenilik missed his kick.
Maryland’s game Saturday at BB&T also will be its last against Wake Forest for the foreseeable future, with the Terps leave the ACC after this season for the Big Ten. The Deacons saw last season turn for the worse when they lost 19-14 at Maryland, with star receiver Michael Campanaro sidelined by a broken hand and six teammates suspended for their involvement with marijuana.
Wake Forest, 2-3 this season with losses to Boston College, Louisiana-Monroe and Clemson, bounced back Oct. 5 to beat N.C. State 28-13. The Deacons might catch a break by playing Maryland a week after it won its rivalry game and a week before it will host No. 3 Clemson.
Plus, the Deacons had Saturday off.
“This gives us a chance,” Grobe said after the win against N.C. State. “This gives us a chance.
“If we had come out of this week 2-4 with an open date, we would have had problems – there’s no question about it. We’ve got great kids. I’m not talking about attitude and all that. But you’re talking about a depressed football team.
“If we hadn’t gotten it done … it would be hard to go through an open week at 2-4.”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Wake Forest coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/wfu/
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