CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Certainly, Ralph Friedgen had known this could happen, perhaps even dreaded it.
Three hours before the contest began, Friedgen's wife, Gloria, had stood nervously in the lobby of the team hotel talking about how she had pre-game jitters and needed an Advil.
She couldn't have known just how much.
The Terrapins all needed pain relievers after previously punchless Virginia stifled Maryland's offense and embarrassed its defense with long scoring drives in a 31-0 Cavaliers victory.
Angry and frustrated afterward, Friedgen said he had preached to the players all week that they could lose. "Some guys have got to drive it or park it," he said.
Friedgen said some players at halftime tried to rally the Terps but that others seemed unresponsive and "still had that distant stare." It was the most lopsided game in the rivalry since 2002 and the first time Maryland had been shut out since a 16-0 loss at Virginia in 2004.
Virginia's sophomore quarterback, Marc Verica, using shovel passes, screens and draws to neutralize Maryland's pressure, threw touchdown passes to junior Kevin Ogletree of 51 and 15 yards as the Cavaliers took a 21-0 halftime lead. They stretched it to 31-0 in the third quarter as Maryland's best scoring opportunity ended when tight end Dan Gronkowski fumbled after a 23-yard reception on the Virginia 39-yard line.
It's hard to overstate how gruesome the loss was for the Terps.
Maryland (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) entered on a three-game winning streak that allowed the Terps and their fans to imagine almost limitless possibilities and to attract scouts from prestigious bowl games.
Orange Bowl scouts were in the Scott Stadium press box last night, and they weren't there to watch Virginia, which entered the game 1-3.
But it was Virginia, not Maryland, that played last night as if it were playing for the postseason.
Senior defensive back Kevin Barnes dressed slowly after the game and said he was trying to determine why the Terps are so wildly inconsistent - beating nationally ranked opponents one week and losing to underdogs the next.
"I just can't put my finger on it. It's been like this since I've been here the past five years. I'm not sure what it is. It's something we definitely have to work out and fight through."
In four previous games, Virginia had no touchdown passes. The Cavaliers had been outscored 128-36 after losing, 31-3, last weekend at Duke. Virginia's play was so poor that the university's president had even been interviewed about it by the local media.
But Virginia held the ball for long stretches last night, keeping Maryland's offense off the field. Verica was 17-for-20 for 178 yards in the first half alone. He also ran for a touchdown, dodging an onrushing Dean Muhtadi and racing around right end for 5 yards to cap a 12-play, 75 yard second-quarter drive.
That play was emblematic of Maryland's defense, which missed numerous tackles near or behind the line.
When Maryland tried to come back in the third quarter, it could hold the ball for only five minutes - half as long as the Cavaliers.
By then, the only remaining mystery was whether the Terps would score. Many in the announced crowd of 50,727 began leaving the stadium with five minutes remaining.
The loss was all the more demoralizing for the Terps because Virginia is what passes for Maryland's "rivalry" game. The Terps have 11 players on their roster from Virginia and have successfully recruited in the Hampton Roads area. Virginia has eight Marylanders on its team.
As the game wore on, Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin seemed determined to try to find a spark. They ran freshman running back Davin Meggett in the first half, and he gained 19 yards on three carries.
They tried running back Da'Rel Scott at receiver on a third-down play. They inserted Josh Portis for several plays at quarterback. They had Obi Egekeze try an onside kick to open the second half, but the attempt failed.
Friedgen said Egekeze "kicks that thing perfectly in practice." But he seemed to barely graze the ball this time.
"It didn't even go 5 yards," said Barnes, who described being knocked woozy by a helmet-to-helmet collision but said he couldn't leave the game because the secondary is already depleted by injuries.
The loss ensures the Terps will spend their bye week talking - again - about why they seem to let down when they are favored, particularly on the road.
The Terps lost at Middle Tennessee State 24-14, in Week 2. They had seemed to expel those demons by winning the next three games, including an upset of Clemson last week.
"We're up some weeks and down some weeks," quarterback Chris Turner said. "We need to be more consistent."
Oct. 18, time TBA
Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM
PLAY IT AGAIN
What went right
"Right" is a relative term when a team loses so decisively. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said the team "didn't quit at any time." One play for Maryland to smile about was a 45-yarder that included two Terps laterals but was stopped at the Virginia 8-yard line as the first half ended.
What went wrong
This was a thorough collapse by the Terps. Maryland gave up 31 points, 26 first downs and 427 yards to a team that had scored 36 points all season. On offense, the Terps were unable to get the ball to speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey (no catches).
Desperate to get Maryland back into the game, Obi Egekeze tried an onside kick to open the second half. But he practically whiffed at the ball, barely nudging it forward and enabling Virginia to claim possession on Maryland's 49.
What it means
The Terps missed a chance to position themselves for a memorable season.
The Terps (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have a bye week before hosting Wake Forest (3-1, 1-0 ACC), which had a bye week.