The Terps seemed listless. The Byrd Stadium crowd seemed restless.
Everything changed once Tony Logan finally got the opportunity to field his first punt.
Logan, who entered the day third in the nation in punt return average, faked left, went right and sailed 84 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that propelled the Terps to a 21-16 victory over Duke in Maryland's Atlantic Coast Conference opener Saturday.
The Terps (4-1, 1-0 ACC) may have played an imperfect game — they trailed 9-0 until the final moments of the first half — but the victory allowed them to feel good about themselves heading into the bye week. The Terps had only one ACC victory a victory a year ago.
"It"s huge," said quarterback Danny O'Brien. The redshirt freshman was only 9-for-26 passing but again threw no interceptions in his second career start. "We won ugly, I think, on offense but at the end of the day we're 1-0 in the ACC."
This one didn't come easily. Trailing 21-16, Duke moved to the Maryland 38 with two minutes left. But quarterback Sean Renfree's pass on fourth-and-15 was broken up by linebacker Alex Wujciak and safety Antwine Perez and fell incomplete.
Maryland had been hurt by not forcing a Duke punt the entire first half. That had left Logan on the sidelines — a leading man waiting for his cue.
Logan was met by a wave of Duke players when he fielded the punt with Maryland trailing 9-7. "Honestly at first I didn't think I was going to go anywhere," Logan said. He said he faked left "to get those guys going," and then cut back to the right.
Said Duke coach David Cutcliffe: "We had a gunner down there ready to make a play but he [Logan] made him miss and found a hole."
After Logan's return, Maryland seemed invigorated. Duke (1-4, 0-2 ACC), which had posted 227 yards in the first half, gained a total of 17 yards on its next four drives that included three three-and-outs.
Meanwhile, Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott, who had been held to 26 yards in the first half, took a short pass from O'Brien and bolted down the sideline for a 71-yard touchdown to put the Terps ahead 21-9 with 13:48 remaining in the game. O'Brien said he had to repeatedly check down on the play, and that Scott was his fourth option.
Coaches said O'Brien played a heady game. Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin said the quarterback "missed a couple that could have broken the game open. But he's not making plays that lose the game for you." He had only two completions in the second half.
Duke made it 21-16 on a 1-yard pass from Renfree to tight end Brandon King with 7:20 left. The touchdown was set up by Renfree's 36-yard pass to Donovan Varner on fourth-and-19.
"I really do want to bang my head on the top of the stadium," Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown said of Duke's fourth-down conversion.
The Blue Devils started their next drive from their 19 with 4:16 left. They converted a fourth-and-three, then had fourth-and-15. before Renfree missed on his pass to receiver Austin Kelly.
Duke rolled up 399 yards. Renfree was 28-for-56 for 351 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions.
"We were very unsettled in the first quarter," Brown said. "In the second half, we said, 'Screw it, we're going.' We got after the quarterback. We didn't play scared."
Maryland's success all came back to the return by Logan, who had scored his first career punt-return touchdown on an 85-yarder a week ago against Florida International. Before Logan's 84-yarder, scattered boos were heard inside Byrd Stadium as the Terps stumbled through the first half.
Logan quickly changed the fans' mood. He jubilantly fired the ball against the brick facing of the Gossett Football Team House after he scored, drawing a penalty on the ensuing kickoff.
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen had mixed feelings about Logan's celebration. "To be honest with you, I woudn't care if he knocked the building down," the coach said.
But Friedgen also said: "I said: 'Tony, great job. But you know it was kind of a selfish thing that you did because now we're kicking off from the 15-yard-line.' " Friedgen said Logan later apologized to him.
It was an important game for the Terps because it was at home and clearly winnable — Duke entered having lost three games in a row. After the upcoming bye weekend, four of Maryland's next five games are on the road.
Trailing 9-0, Maryland drove 80 yards in the final minutes of the first half. Most of the yardage came on O'Brien's 44-yard pass down the middle to Torrey Smith after a play-action fake. Three plays later, the Terps got a break on third-and-11 when Duke was called for roughing O'Brien after an incomplete pass, giving Maryland a first down on the 13.
Davin Meggett's 3-yard scoring run made it 9-7 with 1:12 remaining in the half.
Duke took a 9-0 lead on three field goals by Will Snyderwine.
Maryland entered the game last in the ACC in stopping their opponents on third down. The Blue Devils converted three of their first four third downs — but only one of the 12 after that.
Maryland is 4-1 despite being outgained in every game this season except the 62-3 win over Morgan State.
"A win is a win," Friedgen said.