When Maryland took a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter on Senior Day, the home crowd in Blacksburg was dead silent. The outlook didn't look promising, considering the Hokies had only come back from a 14-point deficit in the 2nd half two times under head coach Frank Beamer.
However, Virginia Tech clawed its way back to force a tie early in the fourth quarter. Then they appeared to be on their way to victory when freshman kicker Eric Kristensen hit a 31-yard field goal in overtime. But it was all for naught.
Quarterback C.J. Brown scored on a 2-yard scamper to secure the victory for the Terrapins, and beat the Hokies 27-24 in overtime Saturday afternoon. The loss practically puts the flame out on Virginia Tech's ACC Title hopes.
"Honestly, I had no question that we were going to stop them there," linebacker Jack Tyler, who led the Hokies with 11 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble, said. "We had full confidence. We got together as a group right before overtime started, and basically said there was no way we were going to lose this game. For whatever reason, we didn't make enough plays and didn't get the stop. That's disappointing, because we should of."
Brown ran for a total of 122 yards and passed for 135 as Maryland won for the first time in six tries against Virginia Tech. Altogether, the Hokies allowed an uncharacteristic 184 yards rushing.
"I don't think we tackled sharply and usually when you don't tackle well, that means you aren't full-tilt and ready to play," Beamer acknowledged. "We're a good tackling football team, but [Brown] broke a lot of tackles and he made some good plays."
Tyler echoed that sentiment.
"Their QB was good, he's elusive," the senior said. "We just didn't tackle very well. That will get you beat just about any game. It's something that we harp on, we're a good tackling team and we always have been. Some of these losses we've just been awful at tackling, and that's been the difference."
While the defense certainly didn't play its best, the offense didn't help. The unit accumulated just 264 yards of offense one week after putting up nearly 500 against Miami.
"I'm not sure if I missed anything or not," Logan Thomas, who went 19-31 for 210 yards, 2 TD, and 0 turnovers, said. "I played my game and took care of the football. Obviously I wish we could have made some more plays to finish the game off. It's sad to go out like this. I'm thrilled that I came back to play with these guys. My decision to come here was a great, great decision."
After going into the locker room with a surprising 14-7 lead, Maryland pushed their margin to 14 points with a 5-play, 78-yard drive in under two minutes.
The silent Hokie crowd received new life when Demetri Knowles took the ensuing kickoff to the Terrapin 12. D.J. Coles finished the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown grab, and the Hokies were back in business. After trading possessions, the Hokies were able to create a clean slate following a beautiful 5-yard pass from Thomas to Willie Byrn with 9:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Trey Edmunds had drawn first blood for the home team on a nifty cut from three yards out to give the Hokies a 7-0 lead halfway through the first frame.
Kristensen attempted to put the Hokies ahead 10-0, but his 31-yard attempt hit the left upright. Maryland appeared headed to put points on the board thereafter with a 70-yard drive, but Kendall Fuller literally stole the ball from Nigel King after a completion to halt the Maryland movement.
Fellow freshman Brandon Facyson added another turnover for the Hokie defense when he intercepted Brown early in the second quarter. But that's when things drastically changed.
While the Terps couldn't get much going on offense, they turned to William Likely to produce points via special teams. His dazzling 63-yard punt return that featured several missed tackles evened the score at 7 midway through the second quarter, and Hokie fans were beginning to feel a little deja vu.
The bad mood continued at Lane as Brown was able to score on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with just 17 seconds left in the half to give Maryland a 14-7 edge heading into halftime. (56-yard drive in just 35 seconds)
That set the stage for the second-half heroics from the Hokies, but they weren't able to pull through in overtime.
"There's nothing we can do about it now," defensive end James Gayle said. "The stakes were very high, and their defense outplayed our defense at the end of the day. It's definitely hard to swallow. I feel like we just didn't have our best day. But like I said, [Brown] was a dynamic player today. He put them in position to win."
Although the ACC title hopes are pretty much diminished (unless there is a 5-way tie) for Virginia Tech, there's still one big battle left to play.
"Going forward it's UVA," Thomas added. "That's the one we gotta win. That's the cross-town rivalry that we have to take care of. Someone told the younger guys to remember this day, it's not the way you want to go out on Senior Day and not to let it happen again."