- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

ATLANTA — Maryland knew it would miss senior quarterback Scott McBrien next season. Last night the Terrapins discovered just how badly.

After McBrien left early in the second quarter with a concussion, Maryland managed only a field goal in a 7-3 loss to Georgia Tech before 51,524 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. It was the fewest points for Maryland since the Terps lost to Notre Dame 22-0 in the season opener last year.

“I’m really disappointed with the way we didn’t handle certain things, because there was nothing new we didn’t see [and practice against],” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “Now we’re back with the pack. We have to finish strong and see if we can still get to a good bowl game.”

The loss ended the Terps’ five-game winning streak. Maryland (5-3, 2-2 ACC) plays host to North Carolina (1-6, 0-3) on Nov.1 before finishing against bowl contenders Virginia, N.C. State and Wake Forest. Georgia Tech (5-3, 3-2) beat its former assistant coach after two losses to Friedgen.

Maryland lost McBrien with nearly six minutes left in the first half during an option run when he was tackled by Georgia Tech defensive end Eric Henderson. McBrien immediately jumped up after the third-down hit but soon went to the bench. He had completed just four of 11 passes for 47 yards with one interception.

The Terps sputtered under freshman Joel Statham, the apparent front-runner to replace McBrien next season. Statham completed 10 of 22 for 110 yards with one interception and a fumble as No.2 quarterback Orlando Evans missed his second straight game for violating team rules. The Terps finished with four turnovers.

Statham’s fumble set up Georgia Tech’s go-ahead touchdown. Four players from each team had a chance at the loose ball before Georgia Tech cornerback Jonathan Cox recovered it at Maryland’s 18 with 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Three plays later, Yellow Jackets quarterback Reggie Ball beat the Terps’ blitz for a 4-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jonathan Smith in the back of the end zone for a 7-3 lead with 14:10 remaining.

Defense dominated, with neither team gaining a rhythm. The Terps’ pass pressure gave the Yellow Jackets little chance for anything other than quick slants as Georgia Tech’s more successful plays were gadget calls. Georgia Tech countered with a stiff inside run defense that often left Maryland with long yardage on second and third downs.

The scoreless first half was a mixture of incomplete passes, punts and penalties. The crowd’s loudest roars came on Georgia Tech’s punts, and the fans sarcastically cheered sporadic long kicks after several early shanks. Maryland gained only 117 yards and Georgia Tech 106 by halftime.

Maryland didn’t score in the opening quarter for the first time this season. Turnovers stopped its first two drives, including a promising 56-yard possession to Georgia Tech’s 22 before running back Bruce Perry fumbled a reception. McBrien ended the first series on an interception at Georgia Tech’s 49 when he overthrew receiver Latrez Harrison.

The Terps’ defense prove unyielding, though. After allowing 26 yards on the first four carries, Maryland held Georgia Tech without a first down for more than 10 minutes. Terps cornerback Curome Cox’s ninth career interception at the Terps’ 29 ended the Yellow Jackets’ deepest first-half drive as Maryland regularly pressured Georgia Tech quarterback Ball.

Maryland briefly solved Georgia Tech’s 19th-ranked run defense midway through the second quarter. Perry gained 30 yards on three carries, including a 19-yarder, to reach the Yellow Jackets’ 21. However, kicker Nick Novak’s 39-yard field goal attempt was slightly left. It was Novak’s first miss this season inside 40 yards after converting seven straight.

However, Novak gained redemption with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter on a 35-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Maryland converted two third-and-longs on passes to receivers Derrick Fenner and Steve Suter following a 22-yarder to Perry on a Georgia Tech blitz.

Statham settled down after a shaky start when several passes were nearly intercepted, but his slow reads allowed Georgia Tech to regularly pressure him. However, Statham completed several improbable passes, including a 25-yarder to receiver Suter on third down to lead to the field goal. Suter suffered a bruised rib on the catch but continued to play.

However, Georgia Tech gained momentum after accumulating only 147 yards through three quarters, After converting Statham’s fumble into the 7-3 lead. Georgia Tech followed with its longest drive of the night, a seven-minute possession before the Yellow Jackets punted with 5:03 remaining. After an interception, it capped the victory with a four-minute drive.

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