- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The joyful echoes of the Maryland victory song rang through the bowels of Scott Stadium.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen leaped with glee, kissing, hugging and occasionally head-butting anyone in sight as he danced in the locker room.

Meanwhile, his players loudly counted to four, a “Sesame Street”-like endeavor that capped a cathartic celebration of the team’s fourth victory.

About 90 minutes earlier, it would have seemed ludicrous to believe it would be possible, not after an ugly first half that portended an equally ghastly result against a struggling Virginia team.

Instead, the Terps pulled out a 28-26 victory, rallying from a 20-point hole at halftime to secure a thoroughly unorthodox win that could be a springboard for the second half of the season.

“It’s tough banging your head up against the wall and not seeing anything for it,” said Friedgen, whose team chanted “Hoo-hoo-hoo” in the locker room after its first win at Virginia since 1990. “I’m going to tell you the locker room was euphoric. I was going nuts, the coaches were going nuts, the kids were going nuts. It was such a release.”

As well it should be for the Terps (4-2, 1-1 ACC), who were a half from falling to .500 and needing three victories against a difficult remaining schedule to become bowl eligible.

Instead, Maryland furiously authored its biggest comeback since erasing a 23-0 deficit in a 33-32 defeat of Wake Forest in 1993. The Terps had rallied from 10-point deficits for victories against N.C. State (2002) and Wake Forest (2003) under Friedgen.

“We went down 20-0, and a lot of people would have gone into the tank,” linebacker Erin Henderson said. “We kept fighting, coaches kept believing, we kept believing and we went out there and took care of business like we knew we were capable of.”

They received an assist from the Cavaliers, who fumbled a punt near the goal line and shanked another punt deep in their territory in the third quarter.

Both miscues led to Maryland touchdowns that narrowed the lead to 20-14.

“Clearly the game hinged on two plays that made it easy for them to get back in the game,” Virginia coach Al Groh said.

The Terps, though, took the lead without the Cavaliers’ help. On its next possession, Maryland ripped off first downs on three straight plays before Keon Lattimore found a seam on the right side and ran 56 yards for a score, the longest rush of his career and part of a career-best 114-yard day.

Henderson punctuated the comeback moments later, returning Sewell’s interception 45 yards for a touchdown. Yet the Cavaliers didn’t fade, scoring as Kevin Ogletree slipped past cornerback Josh Wilson on a 44-yard deep slant from Sewell with 2:37 left.

However, Wilson batted away the two-point attempt intended for Ogletree, and Maryland never relinquished possession again.

Virginia (2-5, 1-1), which had struggled badly on offense all season, seemed inspired from the start by the presence of its border rivals. A team that had not completed a play for more than 34 yards all year produced three of them in the first half, including Sewell’s 36-yard draw for a touchdown and his 38-yard scoring strike to Ogletree.

“When we came into the locker room and Coach said keep your head up, I was like, ‘In this situation, you really can’t,’” receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “When you’re down 20-0, how can you?”

Somehow and some way, Maryland did. It was a performance that might have saved the Terps’ season and one that surely validated the dogmatic approach of hard work on top of more hard work Friedgen and his players have preached since the start of camp.

If nothing else, it might have been just the jolt Maryland and its dancing coach needed to believe good things were possible after nearly 2 trying seasons.

“This one’s pretty special to me just because of what these kids have been going through, just the fact they could continue to hang in there,” Friedgen said.

“After a while as a coach, you start saying, ‘Hey, they’re not listening. They don’t hear me.’ When they respond like this, I felt like the message finally got through. … Maybe I needed it as much as they did.”

Notes — Fullback Tim Cesa left the game with 3:36 remaining with a stinger and did not return. … Defensive end Barrod Heggs, who started last week, was suspended and did not make the trip. “Yeah, they’re my rules,” Friedgen said when asked whether it was for a violation of team rules.

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