COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Moments after Virginia held Maryland to a field goal Saturday in the second quarter after the Terrapins failed to get in the end zone on three plays from inside U.Va.'s 3-yard line, Cavaliers defensive coordinator Jim Reid offered his opinion of the importance of the stand.
In true Reid-style, he didn't hold back with his players. His words dripped with all the over-the-top, positive emotion that defines his personality.
"I told them at that time when they ran off the field that we just won the football game," said Reid, whose team still trailed 13-7 after the aforementioned 20-yard field goal.
His assessment was only partially true.
U.Va.'s offense also played a massive role in a 31-13 victory against Maryland with a decisive third quarter, leading the way to the Cavaliers locking up bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007. The win also snapped a 13-game losing streak for U.Va. in the month of November.
"It's tough to win games on the road," U.Va. coach Mike London said. "It is a challenge to come back from a high win versus Miami (on Oct. 27) and be committed to do what you need to do to win another game on the road. Hopefully, that's a sign of progress for this team as we get older."
There were plenty of those kinds of signs. U.Va. posted a season-high 527 yards (207 in the third quarter), including 139 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries by Perry Jones.
His 47-yard touchdown run on the game's first play from scrimmage helped set the tone for U.Va., which converted 7 of 15 third downs and finished the game with eight plays from scrimmage of 20-plus yards, including six passing.
"Coming into this game, we tried not to think about (getting bowl eligible) too much," said Jones, who has 782 rushing yards this season, putting him within reach of becoming U.Va.'s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004 when Alvin Pearman ran for 1,037 yards. "We didn't want to let the past two or three years effect now."
Quarterback Michael Rocco completed 23 of 36 passes for a career-high 307 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Nine of his completions went to wide receiver Kris Burd for 112 yards, and five more completions went to receiver Tim Smith for 101 yards.
While U.Va.'s goal-line stand in the second quarter may have signaled the beginning of the end for Maryland (2-7, 1-5), stout defense was a general theme for U.Va. all afternoon. Maryland put up 353 yards, including just 84 yards rushing, and committed five turnovers – a season-high in turnovers for a U.Va. opponent.
Maryland's failed venture in the second quarter on three plays inside U.Va.'s 3, which included a stop by linebacker Aaron Taliaferro on third-and-goal from U.Va.'s 1 that resulted in a 1-yard loss for running back Davin Meggett, marked the last time it got inside the Cavaliers' 20.
Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien completed 16 of 36 passes for 241 yards, including misfires on 12 of his last 16 attempts. He was intercepted twice by strong safety Rodney McLeod, who also picked off backup C.J. Brown once.
McLeod became the first U.Va. player to have three interceptions in a game since 1996, when current U.Va. special teams coordinator and safeties coach Anthony Poindexter did it against North Carolina State.
After completing 8 of his last 11 passes in the first half for 132 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Parks with 1:34 left in the second quarter that put U.Va. up for good 14-13, Rocco continued to pour it on in the third quarter.
Rocco led two touchdown drives in the third quarter by completing 8 of 10 passes for 110 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to fullback Max Milien that extended U.Va.'s advantage to 28-13 with 3:06 left in the quarter. Parks accounted for 59 of U.Va.'s 97 rushing yards in the quarter.
Maryland, which was 3 of 14 on third down conversions for the game, couldn't keep up in the second half. It punted or gave the ball up via a fumble or interception on seven of its eight drives, and turned the ball over on downs on another drive. Half of the eight drives lasted three plays or less.
"(Getting bowl eligible) is a great feeling," said McLeod, who added he had a "magnet" for the ball, resulting in his interceptions. "Coach London tried to shy away from it, but as players, you know that six wins gets you bowl eligible…Now, it's about how far we want to go as a team."