Coach Mark Duffner's team was able to take something positive out of its first three losses, but the 55-28 beating the Terps took from the Hokies was a miserable experience for Maryland.
Playing in a steady rain that had many fans leaving Lane Stadium at halftime, the Terps simply had a miserable day, from a missed field goal on their opening drive, to a bench-clearing brawl in the second quarter, to the despondent postgame news conference.
For the second straight year, Maryland goes into October with an 0-4 record. Unlike last year, however, Week 5 doesn't offer a struggling opponent like Pitt. Instead, Penn State comes to Byrd Stadium next Saturday, and the young Terps will need their first victory over the Nittany Lions in 32 years to avoid their first 0-5 start since 1970.
"It's tough to go out every week and know you're good enough to play, but not good enough to win," sophomore quarterback Scott Milanovich said. "It's really frustrating. We need to get a win."
If it's done anything this season, Maryland has established a pattern. For the third straight week, Milanovich improved on a Terps passing record, but for the fourth straight game the defense was abused by an opponent. Maryland entered last in the nation in scoring defense, and that average worsened to 49.8 points per game allowed.
Maryland out-gained Virginia Tech 649 yards to 641. The combined yardage (1,290) and points (83) were the highest ever in a game here, and the Hokies began playing in 1892.
Milanovich improved his week-old school record for yards passing in a game to 498, but this time he also threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. The first two turnovers occurred deep in Maryland territory, and allowed Virginia Tech a pair of easy touchdowns in a 93-second span early in the second quarter.
That sudden burst allowed the Hokies to take a 21-7 lead with 12:54 left in the first half, and Maryland was never again within a touchdown when it had possession.
Virginia Tech, which, in improving to 3-1 surpassed last year's win total, didn't need field position to take advantage of an inexperienced Maryland defense.
Tech quarterback Maurice DeShazo is accustomed to operating an option attack that is one of the most productive on the ground in the nation, but four of his 10 completions went for touchdowns that covered 20, 70, 57 and 40 yards.
"There are a lot of players injured, but we have to go with what we have on the field," said inside linebacker Ratcliff Thomas, a freshman who again led the Terps with 15 tackles. "It's not necessarily the option we're facing, it's people not knowing what they're doing. There were a lot of missed tackles and blown assignments."
Special teams play was another Maryland shortcoming. The kickoff coverage unit allowed Virginia Tech to get the ball to midfield several times, and Ken Lytle missed three field-goal attempts. The first ended the game's opening drive, and DeShazo passed 20 yards to Poly grad Antonio Freeman on the next play, starting an 80-yard touchdown drive that established the Hokies' offense.
The Terps' defense actually stopped Virginia Tech on its next two possessions, Ryan Williams missing a 40-yard field-goal attempt and freshman Andreal Johnson getting his first college interception.
Milanovich gave the ball right back, however, when he threw into coverage and was picked off by free safety Antonio Banks, who returned to the Terps' 14-yard line. Virginia Tech needed just three plays to go ahead for good.
The lead grew after Milanovich was sacked and fumbled on the Terps' next possession. The Hokies recovered on the 11, scored four plays later, and the two easy touchdowns in 1:33 signaled the start of the rout.
The Terps had a 70-yard drive that cut the difference to 21-14 midway through the second quarter, but the Hokies encountered minimal resistance the next two times they had the ball. Lamont Gore, one of three true freshmen who started for Maryland on defense, was in position to stop a post pattern from DeShazo to Bryan Still, but he slipped and the play went for a 70-yard touchdown that made it 35-14 with 1:30 left in the half.
The game turned ugly after Maryland drove right back to the Hokies' 7-yard line with eight seconds remaining. After Lytle's 25-yard field-goal attempt was cleanly blocked, a scramble for the loose ball led to a bench-clearing brawl that held up play for seven minutes and ended with the ejection of four players. The Terps lost starting linebacker Jaime Flores and reserve wide receiver Jermaine Stewart and Virginia Tech lost rushing leader Dwayne Thomas and backup tight end Kevin Martin.
After a quiet third quarter, both teams broke loose for two touchdowns in the fourth.
On the second by the Terps, Milanovich hit redshirt freshman Walt Williams down the right sideline for a 67-yard touchdown pass that brought Maryland within 41-28 with 11:26 left. But DeShazo calmly picked apart Maryland on quick-strike touchdowns that covered 57 and 40 yards.
"It all comes back to the big play," Duffner said. "When you're playing a three-deep zone, you can't allow a ball to go right down the middle on you. We shot ourselves in the foot giving up the big play, and we have to, and are going to, eliminate that situation."
How Maryland's defense has fared through four games:
Date .. Opponent .. .. .. allow. .. allow.
9/4 ... Virginia .. .. .. 43 ... .. 473
9/11 .. No. Carolina . .. 59 ... .. 714
9/18 .. West Virginia ... 42 ... .. 542
9/25 .. Virginia Tech ... 55 ... .. 641
Avg. .. .. .. .. .. ... 49.8 .. . 592.5
Miami 35 .. .. Colorado 29
Penn State 31 .. .. Rutgers 7
Alabama 56 .. .. .. La. Tech 3
Notre Dame 17 .. .. Purdue 0
N. Carolina 35 . .. N.C. State 14
UCLA 28 .. .. .. .. Stanford 25
Towson St. 52 .. .. Charles. So. 14
Morgan St. 38 .. .. Va. Union 21