ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- On a day when the University of Maryland had to be perfect, the Terrapins were far from it. Three of quarterback Scott Zolak's passes were intercepted and he lost two fumbles, special teams play was horrendous and the offensive line couldn't handle the pressure when it had to.
And finally, the Terps' foundation this season, their defense, collapsed in the second half allowing three touchdowns as No. 6 Michigan romped, 45-17, yesterday in front of 102,894 at Michigan Stadium.
Maryland (3-2) played Michigan (2-1) tough for 2 1/2 quarters, but wilted in the game's final 24 minutes. In three of the previous four games this season the Terps had relied on some last-minutes heroics to win the game.
They wouldn't have helped yesterday. Too many Maryland mistakes, good Michigan field position in the second half and a talented Wolverines team turned this game into a rout.
Michigan unleashed its powerful rushing attack for 121 yards in the second half and scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Elvis Grbac to fullback Jarrod Bunch in the third period. The Wolverines also got a 2-yard touchdown run from halfback Jon Vaughn and and 37-yard touchdown pass from reserve quarterback Ken Sollom to flanker Kevin Owen in the fourth quarter.
"That's a pretty good football team we just played out there, one of the top four or five teams in the country," said Joe Krivak, Maryland's head coach. "When you go against an offensive line like that [290-pound average] for four quarters, it's is hard to hold on. I think our kids played hard and they played right up to the very last snap. But we missed some opportunities and you can't do that when you're playing a good team like Michigan."
The mistakes against Michigan were the kind that have haunted the Terps all year. Maryland had 422 yards of total offense yesterday, even a surprising 93 on the ground. The Terps had the ball nine minutes longer than Michigan, and had eight more first downs -- but only two touchdowns
Haven't we heard this before?
"It's the same mistakes, only this time our defense couldn't bail us out," said Maryland wide receiver Barry Johnson. "We'll get rid of these mistakes in time."
Yesterday's game was the fifth of the season. Isn't time running out?
"It's getting close," nose guard Rick Fleece said.
It was Zolak's second consecutive poor showing as the 6 foot 5, 225 pounder from Monongahela, Pa, completed 29 of 45 passes for 264 yards. But three of his turnovers contributed to 17 Michigan points and another interception took away a possible touchdown or at least a field-goal attempt late in the first half.
Zolak's first pass of the game, intended for, but thrown behind tight end Bret Boehly was picked off by Michigan linebacker Martin Davis and returned 27 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown and a 7-0 Michigan lead only 56 seconds into the game.
The second interception occurred with 2:50 gone in the second quarter when free safety Vada Murray picked off an overthrown pass intended for wide receiver Marcus Badgett. On the next play, Grbac threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to split end Desmond Howard that put Michigan ahead, 14-3.
Zolak's most costly mistake may have occurred in the closing minute of the first half when he overthrew receiver Gene Thomas at the Michigan 4 from the Wolverines' 23, and the ball was picked off by cornerback Lance Dottin with four seconds left. Maryland trailed only 21-10, at the time.
Worse yet, it was the same play that Maryland had tried the last two weeks at the close of the half, only to have it end with an interception. Seven of Zolak's passes have been intercepted in the last four games.
"I know I'm going to have to pick it up," he said. "I don't want to dwell on it too long. At times I feel like I'm just trying to make too many things happen."
"I just keep telling him to hang in there," said Krivak, whose reserve quarterback, junior Jim Sandwisch, had thrown only two collegiate passes before yesterday.
"Scott Zolak is going to be the man and without him, we wouldn't have won as many games as we already have," Krivak said.
Maryland's defense played well in the first half despite the turnovers. Lubo Zizakovic, Fleece and Larry Webster dominated interior line play, and they helped hold Vaughn, the country's leading rusher at 244.5 per game, to only 20 yards on 10 carries in the first half.
"I thought we accomplished everything we wanted to in the first half," said Webster, Maryland's defensive tackle. "Take away our turnovers, and we're ahead."
Dan DeArmas kicked a 32-yard field goal with 9:07 left in the first quarter, but a Terps drive on their next possession ended when he missed one from 46 yards with 5:18 left in the first period.
The Terps scored again on a 2-yard run by halfback Andre Vaughn with 4:48 left in the half. It came eight plays after Michigan fumbled a punt and the ball was recovered by Maryland at the Wolverines' 37.
Maryland seemed to have made great adjustments at the half. The Terps opened the third period with a 12 play, 74-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown run by fullback Darren Colvin to bring Maryland within 21-17.
But Michigan answered with a nine-play, 59-yard drive as Bunch scored on a pass in the left flat. From then on, the game was dominated by Michigan.
One play after the ensuing kickoff, Zolak fumbled when he was hit while rolling to his left and the ball was recovered by Michigan at the Maryland 7. The Terps held, but J.D. Carlson kicked a 22-yard field goal with 2:15 left in the quarter to make the score 31-17.
The 14-point margin forced Maryland to pass, and Michigan's pass rush was relentless. The Terps advanced into Michigan territory only once in their next five possessions.
Michigan, meanwhile, started second-half possessions at the Maryland 41, 48, 40 and 37.
"I don't think we got worn down," said Maryland linebacker Scott Whittier. "Their field position gave them a lot of options. We weren't swarming anymore. It's tough to play defense when you're back on your heels."
Even though it had trouble rushing in the first half, Michigan, had success against Maryland's secondary as Grbac completed 15 of 25 passes for 172 yards. The good field position and the threat of Grbac's passing also opened up the rushing lanes for Vaughn in the second half. He finished with 89 yards for the game.
But pass defense was only a part of Maryland's problems. The Terps allowed an average of 32.3 yards on kickoffs and 12.8 on punt returns.
"I came into this game thinking Michigan was a great team," said Fleece. "If we eliminate some mistakes, I think we could be a great team too."
"We've got to get it together before Georgia Tech next week," said Thomas. "It's a conference game and we're back home."