- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2008

CHARLOTTESVILLE | The Maryland football team could have earned a national ranking, a lead in its division and a sense of accomplishment at the season’s midpoint with a victory Saturday.

Yet just as the Terps never seem to wallow in an emotional dell for long, they cannot tolerate even a hint of prosperity, either.

Granted an opportunity to roll into a bye week with a four-game winning streak and a spot atop the ACC’s Atlantic Division, the Terrapins instead summoned the most incompetent of their multiple personalities to produce a 31-0 loss to Virginia before 50,727 at Scott Stadium.

“I don’t think anyone could have seen this coming,” center Edwin Williams said of Maryland’s first shutout since a 16-0 loss at Virginia in 2004. “They deserved to win that game. They played very well. They out-toughed us.”

It was apropos for the Bizarro Terps (4-2, 1-1 ACC), who somehow find ways to conjure up good-to-great performances against ranked teams but can still help make an inept opponent look like a national title contender.

The Cavaliers (2-3, 1-1) are not quite worthy of such a tag, but they moved down the field with ease throughout the first half. Quarterback Marc Verica, making only his third career start, found little resistance in picking apart the Terps’ defense.

Verica finished with a stout 25-for-34 performance, accounting for 226 yards and two touchdowns while infusing some hope into Virginia’s sagging season. In the process, he helped remind Maryland its incurable inconsistency will inevitably be its undoing.

The Terps came into the week with a chance to remain perfect in the conference and collect a second road victory in the league. They left it pondering just how they could play so poorly with so much at stake.

The sting of the atrocious performance of four weeks earlier at Middle Tennessee did not inoculate the Terps from reverting to a middling version of themselves.

“I just can’t put my finger on it,” cornerback Kevin Barnes said. “It’s been like that since I’ve been here, the last five years. It’s something I just don’t understand. I’m not sure what it is. It’s something we definitely have to work on and fight through.”

The offense displayed little life. Electric wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey’s only touch in the first half came on a desperation lateral just before the break, and the Terps did not take a snap beyond the Virginia 32.

The defense bore its share of the blame as well.

Kevin Ogletree (five receptions, 100 yards), who scored twice against the Terps two years ago, caught a 51-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to give Virginia its first lead in nearly a month and allow the Cavaliers to join every other major-college program in completing a scoring toss this season.

More egregious was Ogletree’s 19-yard catch late in the second quarter to extend a drive. Virginia kept the possession going again when Rashawn Jackson converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield, a play that permitted Verica to continue dicing the Terps until connecting with Ogletree on a 15-yard score with 11 seconds left in the half.

A shallow cornerback corps didn’t help, especially when Barnes (helmet-to-helmet collision) and Anthony Wiseman both were limited Saturday night. But the stark reality is that Maryland did not resemble a decent team.

“I don’t feel like this team quit or anything, I just don’t think we played well,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I think there’s a difference there. I think they were trying right to the end. It wasn’t our night tonight.”

The Terps served up even more comedic bumbling in the second half while eliminating any hope of replicating the comeback from a 20-point halftime deficit against the Cavaliers in 2006.

Obi Egekeze’s onside kick to open the half didn’t travel 5 yards, leaving the Terps to impotently stare at the feeble attempt. Cedric Peerman ripped off a 35-yard burst to set up a field goal. A possession later, the senior turned in a Steve Slaton-esque dash around the left edge on a fourth down to add a 9-yard touchdown run to his haul.

From there, the only remaining morbid curiosity was whether the Terps would score, and even the manner of their failure was startling.

Heyward-Bey wasn’t targeted in the final 57 minutes and was held without a catch for the second straight game. The Terps ran for only 79 yards. And Maryland slunk back to College Park to spend the next two weeks analyzing its second mind-bending loss of the season.

“I don’t want to have this loss over my head for two weeks now, especially with how we lost,” cornerback Kevin Barnes said. “No loss is classy, but they definitely destroyed us tonight. This probably hurts more than Middle Tennessee.”

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