BLACKSBURG — The odds of Virginia Tech making Maryland's C.J. Brown look like all-conference material seemed slim. After all, this was senior day in Lane Stadium, and an improved outlook in the topsy-turvy ACC Coastal Division was on the line.
Brown wasn't interested in helping Tech's cause Saturday. His running, highlighted by a 3-yard touchdown run in overtime, led Maryland to a 27-24 victory that dealt Tech a serious — but not fatal — blow to its division title chances.
"We got beat (Saturday)," said Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose program must win Nov. 30 at Virginia and finish atop a Coastal tiebreaker scenario involving several teams to win the division. "It's a game we feel like that if we started out a little bit better, then we would have been OK. The longer we left Maryland in it, the better they got.
"I think we'll go back and look at how many times we had a chance to win this football game."
Tech (7-4 overall, 4-3 ACC) experienced glaring breakdowns at some of the worst possible times — inability to convert on third downs (4 of 16), poor pass protection, unsatisfactory punt return coverage, questionable clock management, missed tackles and bad rush defense against Brown.
Maryland (6-4, 2-4), which became bowl-eligible with the win, gained 319 yards, including 184 rushing — the second-most rushing yards Tech has surrendered this season.
Brown had 122 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Tech. He also completed 12 of 25 passes for 135 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
"He was taking advantage of our aggressiveness," said Tech senior defensive end James Gayle, a Bethel High graduate. "Basically, he wasn't even looking downfield. As soon as we got off the ball, he was running."
After Tech tied the game 21-21 with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter, both teams failed to move inside the opponents' 49-yard line on the next four drives combined. Maryland took over at its own 24 with 2:34 remaining, but Tech had three timeouts remaining and could've had an opportunity to get the ball back with time to make something happen, but the Hokies didn't use any timeouts on the Terrapins' possession.
Tech got the ball back with 18 seconds left after Maryland punted from the 50. Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, who was sacked seven times, took a knee at the Hokies' 25 to send the game to overtime.
Brown's touchdown run in overtime, which featured a diving stretch with the ball just inside the pylon, came on the heels of Eric Kristensen making his first college field goal from 31 yards to give Tech a momentary 24-21 advantage in overtime.
Kristensen, who also had an unsuccessful 34-yard attempt glance off the left upright in the first quarter, was kicking in his first college game in place of the dismissed Cody Journell.
A week after gaining a season-high 549 yards in a 42-24 win at Miami, Tech picked up just 264 yards against Maryland. It was Tech's lowest yardage total since it had 212 yards in a season-opening 35-10 loss against Alabama.
Thomas completed 19 of 31 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He completed his first eight passes, but followed that up by misfiring on his next eight attempts.
"I'm not sure if I missed anything or not," said Thomas, a senior. "I don't feel like I missed too much. I played within the box. I played my game. I took care of the football. Obviously, I wish we could've made a couple more plays, finish this thing on the right end with a (win)."
Tech jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but it surrendered a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown by William Likely with 7:47 left in the first quarter that tied the game 7-7. Tech gained just five yards on its next three drives, and Maryland capitalized with two touchdown-scoring drives to take a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Facing its largest home deficit of the season at that point, Tech answered after Maryland took the 14-point lead with an 88-yard kickoff return by Demitri Knowles to the Terrapins' 12-yard line. Thomas finished the drive five plays later on a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver D.J. Coles with 10:03 left in the third quarter to cut Maryland's lead to 21-14.
Tech held Maryland to just three plays before it had to punt on four of the Terrapins' next five possessions, but the Hokies could only score on one drive after forcing the Terrapins punts.
On a Tech drive that included a third-and-24 conversion via a 38-yard completion to Knowles that got the Hokies to the Terrapins' 26, Thomas capped the drive by connecting with receiver Willie Byrn on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 9:32 left to tie the game 21-21. Tech wouldn't get inside Maryland's 49 the rest of the way in regulation.
"It's not shocking because we lost to Duke, and we lost to Boston College," Gayle said.
"I'd rather lose with coach Beamer than win with (Maryland) at the end of the day."
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun