COLLEGE PARK -- Fate played a dirty trick on Maryland sophomore quarterback/safety Randall Jones yesterday.
The gifted athlete once again came to the rescue for the Terps on short notice at quarterback, and he played a mostly flawless game under a lot of pressure in the 34-30 loss to Virginia.
"I knew my teammates needed me at quarterback because of all our injuries and I had no problem doing it," said Jones, who had vowed in September that he would never switch positions again. "This was a different situation. I had to do it. The season was on the line. The other switches were more long-term."
Jones came to Maryland as a freshman safety, but was moved to quarterback after three weeks and wound up starting the second half of the season. He remained at quarterback until the second game of this season, when he was moved back to safety, where he stayed until six days ago.
"They told me last Sunday I was going to play quarterback this week," said Jones. "I knew I wouldn't start, but I figured I would get an opportunity to play some and I took advantage of it."
Jones replaced true freshman Latrez Harrison a little less than 10 minutes into the game. Harrison had fumbled at the Maryland 17-yard line to set up Virginia's first touchdown and a 10-0 lead with 7: 28 left in the first quarter, completed two of seven passes, and got called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Jones hadn't played a down at quarterback all season after being switched to safety following the first game against Temple. But with Harrison struggling and the other two Terps quarterbacks injured, the 6-foot-2, 212-pounder out of Thomas Johnson High in Frederick stepped right in against a talented Virginia team with the entire season on the line.
Jones was perfect on several last-second pitches off the option to LaMont Jordan and he guarded the ball like his life depended on it.
Jones also completed four of nine passes for 60 yards and one touchdown.
But just as he was set to join Jordan as the game's hero, he was called on to run an option play to the short side of the field as the Terps were trying to kill the clock with a 30-27 lead with 1: 27 left.
Being a very alert player and through many battles in his athletic career, Jones sensed the danger of the sidelines immediately and tried to cut back into the field.
But Virginia's Maurice Anderson pushed Jones out of bounds, costing Maryland in the neighborhood of 42 seconds and allowing the Cavaliers to rally for a go-ahead touchdown.
Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden absolved Jones of any responsibility for the third-down option run to the short side of the field, saying, "It was a major snafu. I don't know what the play was because I already flipped ahead to the defense, thinking of taking a delay-of-game penalty before we punted."
Give Vanderlinden credit for his honesty and Jones credit for being the ultimate team player.
No matter what else happens the rest of his career, Jones will be remembered as the youngster who bailed Maryland out of a lot of quarterbacks jams in just two seasons.