- - Sunday, October 13, 2013

Maryland and Virginia simultaneously reached an intersection in their 2013 football seasons and, like motorists, each waved at the other to make the first move.

Virginia made that first move. But Maryland was the one that emerged from the crossroads headed in the right direction. The Terrapins’ emotional 27-26 victory brought to a close (for now) the only true rivalry the school has as it plays out its final season in the ACC.

By scoring touchdowns and limiting the Cavaliers to field goals, Maryland (5-1) proved it can still accomplish many of the goals it had set prior to the season. Meanwhile, Virginia (2-4) faces a scramble for bowl eligibility with only one game remaining in which it figures to be the favorite.

The Terrapins fell flat a week ago in a 63-0 drubbing at Florida State that cost them their starting quarterback, C.J. Brown, who departed with a concussion. He sat out Saturday’s game as a precautionary measure. Coach Randy Edsall spent the week trying to gauge his team’s psyche to no avail.

“I’ll tell you the truth, I was nervous coming into this game,” Edsall said. “I wasn’t sure. I saw things in practice this week, but with where we were and all the things that transpired going into the Florida State game, and then what happened in the Florida State game, I wasn’t sure coming into today. I thought our guys would respond and really do a good thing, but we’re young. We’re real young.”

While the game ended with a missed Virginia field goal in the final seconds, it was decided on a third-and-22 at the Maryland 40 roughly five minutes earlier. Trailing Virginia 26-20, Caleb Rowe – subbing for Brown with mixed success – delivered a clutch completion to Deon Long for a play that covered 47 yards.

It was the kind of play a young team must convert in order to grow. It was a play that came to fruition via young players making savvy decisions.

“I shouldn’t tell you this, but Deon ran the wrong route,” Rowe said with a smile. “Deon’s a great player and I have all the trust in the world in him. I just gave him a jump ball and he came down with it.”

Long, laughed off Rowe’s version and said he was improvising.

“I didn’t run the wrong route. I was in the middle of running my route and I kind of peeked out and saw [Rowe] scrambling,” Long said. “So I just took off and he just so happened to throw me the ball.

“He should have,” Long added playfully, “after all the passes he missed me on.”

Two plays later, Rowe found tight end Dave Stinebaugh in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. The extra point proved to be the winning margin.

Virginia would not have had to pin its hopes on a last-second 42-yard field goal attempt by backup kicker Alec Vozenilek had it converted earlier red-zone opportunities into touchdowns.

The Cavaliers were gifted an early opportunity when Maryland punt returner William Likely fumbled at the Terrapins’ 13. Virginia went nowhere, though, and settled for a 28-yard field goal.

On their next possession, the Cavaliers marched confidently from their own 20 to the Terrapins’ 1, only to be stuffed for no gain twice. They settled for an 18-yard field goal.

“The one thing that you want to be able to do, is you always want to be a good red-zone defense,” Edsall said. “If people get the ball down there, the one thing you want to do is you don’t want to give them touchdowns, you want to give them field goals.”

Virginia coach Mike London said he was happy his team at least came away with points, though touchdowns would have made a big difference in the outcome.

“”Three points didn’t add up to enough,” he said. “One more score in the red zone obviously could have been the difference in the game. Anytime you get down in the red zone, you want points. You’d like to get touchdowns, but you want to make sure to not come away with zero.”

So ends (for now) a rivalry that Edsall considers Maryland’s only true grudge match. The schools have made no plans to continue the 94-year-old series when the Terrapins leave for the Big Ten next season.

“It’s exciting because we won. That’s the biggest thing,” Edsall said. “And we know that’s probably the biggest rivalry that we have in football here at the University of Maryland. To be able to beat them for the last time, I think it’s something special.

“I know that we got their best game today. And we knew that we were going to get their best game because of the situation that they were in. But, it’s good to win. It doesn’t matter how you win. Just like I say all the time, any win’s a good win.”

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