Nov. 20, 1999
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Down 17-0 against Virginia in the first quarter, Maryland staged a brilliant comeback behind LaMont Jordan and a quarterback who spent most of the season in the defensive backfield.
Then, just when it appeared as if the Terrapins were on their way to a winning season and a bowl bid, Dan Ellis snatched it away.
Ellis threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Billy McMullen with 26 seconds left as the Cavaliers overcame a school-record 306-yard rushing performance by Jordan to beat the Terps 34-30 Saturday.
Virginia (7-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) clinched its 13th straight season with at least seven wins and crushed the bowl hopes of the Terrapins (5-6, 2-6), who were poised to make their first trip to the postseason since 1990.
"I don't think I've ever felt quite like I do right now," said Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden, his voice cracking with emotion. "This has to be the worst loss I've ever been associated with because there was so much on the line. It was a chance to finish the season like it started, on such a high note."
After opening 5-2, the Terrapins closed with four straight losses.
Maryland had taken a 30-27 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Brian Kopka with 5:18 left and appeared certain of victory when a fourth-down pass by Ellis fell incomplete with 1:40 to go. But Maryland failed to get a first down and, even worse, stopped the clock when quarterback Randall Jones ran out of bounds on third down with Virginia out of timeouts.
"That was a huge snafu. That was obviously a critical play," Vanderlinden said.
Vanderlinden pulled out all the stops in an effort to win the game, yanking freshman quarterback Latrez Harrison after three series with the Terrapins down 17-0. Jones, who led the offense last year but was moved to safety after the season opener, took over and brought Maryland back into a tie by halftime.
But the Cavaliers and Ellis were just too good.
McMullen's catch on the left side of the end zone in front of cornerback Tony Okanlawon capped an improbable 76-yard drive for the Cavaliers, who got the ball on their own 24 with no timeouts left and down by three points. Led by Ellis, Virginia covered the distance in nine plays and just 46 seconds.
"I thought Dan Ellis was outstanding. He couldn't have been any better," Virginia coach George Welsh said. "I mean, right down the field with no timeouts. He got the signals quickly, he got the ball off and was very decisive."
Ellis went 21-for-34 for 276 yards and four touchdowns. Virginia's Thomas Jones ran for 91 yards and finished with 1,798 yards, breaking the ACC single-season record set in 1970 by Don McCauley.
Maryland had rallied from an early 17-0 deficit behind Jordan, whose sensational performance included a 90-yard touchdown run. It was the Terrapins' eighth straight loss to Virginia - and by far the most bitter.
"I'm tired, hurt and beat up," a despondent Jordan said. "For four weeks we've been looking for that winning season. Now we've got to go a whole year thinking about what could have and what should have been."
Jordan carried the ball 37 times as Maryland amassed 445 yards on the ground, their most since a 582-yard effort against Virginia in 1985. Jordan finished the season with 1,632 yards, the highest total by a junior in ACC history.
With the score 17-all in the third quarter and Maryland facing a third-and-6 on its own 10, Jordan broke through the line, cut left and sprinted down the sideline on a 90-yard touchdown run. It was the longest run against Virginia since Navy's Joe Bellino reeled off a 90-yarder in 1960.
Virginia's Tyree Foreman momentarily quieted the crowd with a 76-yard kickoff return, and David Greene made it 24-20 with a 43-yard field goal. The Cavaliers then blocked a 47-yard try by Kopka and Dwayne Stukes took the ball to the Maryland 38.
Seven plays later, Ellis put Virginia back in front with an 11-yard TD pass to Casey Crawford. Kopka then kicked a 25-yard field goal to cap a 71-yard drive and make it 27-27 with 12:20 left.
"We can't stop anybody most of the time and our opponents can't stop us most of the time," Welsh said.