With Petty, Terrapins overwhelmed at home
With a linebacker filling in at quarterback, it was an appropriate afternoon for the Maryland football team to wear Wounded Warrior uniforms.
Freshman Shawn Petty was pressed into service, and the Georgia Tech defense was in press coverage, daring him to throw. With nowhere for the Maryland backs to run, the Terrapins' quarterback-injury curse finally caught up to them in a 33-13 loss.
On a gray day before 33,471 at Byrd Stadium, Maryland (4-5, 2-3) suffered its most decisive defeat of the season. All of the resilience the Terps had shown in this bizarre season of adversity dissipated. Even their vaunted rushing defense, ranked fourth in the nation, crumbled against the Yellow Jackets' triple-option offense, which generated 370 yards on the ground.
"We didn't have as good a day as we would have liked to defensively," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "We knew we were going to have to play great on defense to keep it a very low-scoring game."
Meanwhile, Maryland's offense produced just 259 yards, needed six possessions to generate a first down and scored only after the Georgia Tech defense abandoned its press coverage. Petty finished with 24 yards rushing on 17 carries and completed nine of 18 passes for 115 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"It started coming in the second half," Petty said. "First half I was a little antsy. I calmed down, played faster and let the game come to me."
Maryland's power outage was little surprise after last Sunday's news that Caleb Rowe was the fourth Maryland quarterback to go down this year with a season-ending injury and third with a torn ACL.
On Saturday, Petty often referred to plays attached to sweatbands on either wrist. The left-hander took most snaps from a shotgun spread but also ran a few times from under center. By the second quarter Maryland already was experimenting.
Freshman running back Wes Brown (nine carries, 38 yards) took direct snaps in a Wildcat formation, dubbed the "Wild Crab" by the Terps' coaches, and rushed for Maryland's breakthrough first down. But living up to the tradition in this star-crossed season for quarterbacks, Brown survived only three series taking snaps before spending the rest of the afternoon on the bench with an ankle injury, which is not believed to be serious.
Through most of the first half, the Georgia Tech defense employed one of its safeties as a linebacker. On some plays, all of the Yellow Jackets' defenders lined up within a few yards of the line of scrimmage.
Maryland's best moments came after Georgia Tech (4-5, 3-3) assumed a 27-0 lead and fell back into a soft prevent defense. Brandon Ross (12 carries, 66 yards) found room to run, and Petty threw touchdown passes of 16 and 23 yards to freshman Stefon Diggs. The second one came on the game's final play as Diggs made a sensational leaping catch over a Yellow Jackets defensive back.
"Coming into the game, they thought I couldn't throw -- or knew I couldn't throw," Petty said with a smile. "[The touchdowns] made me feel confident and put more confidence in the team, showing we can get touchdowns even with the situation we're in."