One coach figured to be daring, the other gun-shy. Both went against type Saturday night, setting the stage for one of the most confounding college football results the commonwealth has ever witnessed.
Virginia 31, Maryland 0.
American League East.
Virginia lost at Duke last week, for heaven's sake. By 28!
The Cavaliers had been outscored 128-20 in three games against Division I-A opponents. They ranked last nationally in scoring.
In a word, they were awful.
"After we lost to Duke, everybody was down," tailback Mikell Simpson said. "But we came to practice Sunday and everybody put it behind them."
OK, score one for collective amnesia. But a stone-cold knockout of a squad that won at Clemson last week? Please.
Here's how the decisive punch transpired:
The Cavaliers (2-3, 1-1 ACC) led 14-0 late in the second quarter when linebacker Clint Sintim deflected Chris Turner's third-down pass to put the Terps (4-2, 1-1) in fourth-and-3 at the Virginia 40. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen had every reason to be bold.
His Terps were riding a three-game winning streak, two over ranked teams. They needed a spark before intermission, and besides, if they turned the ball over on downs, surely the defense could stuff Virginia's lame offense.
But Friedgen opted to punt, and Vic Hall's fair catch gave the Cavaliers possession at their 12 with 4:12 remaining.
With 1:00 left, they faced fourth-and-inches at their 49.
Convention dictated a punt. Be happy with a two-score lead and head to the locker room.
But if ever a team needed to know its coach believed in them.
"The thought was, 'Don't overcoach this, just give the game to the players,' " Groh said.
In the huddle, left tackle Eugene Monroe jumped up-and-down and head-butted fullback Rashawn Jackson, whose subsequent 2-yard plunge sustained the drive.
"It was so emotional," Monroe said. "Any time you have fourth-and-short, as an offensive lineman you want to go for it and push the defenders out of the way."
Five plays later, all completed passes, Marc Verica — you sure that wasn't Matt Schaub? — lofted the ball to a silly open Kevin Ogletree in the left corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.