CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Stefon Diggs returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and fellow freshman Perry Hills threw for one TD and ran for another as Maryland defeated Virginia 27-20 in Atlantic Coast Conference action on Saturday, extending the Cavaliers’ losing streak to five.
The kickoff return started a disastrous first quarter that put Virginia (2-5, 0-3) in a 17-point hole it could never climb out of, despite moving the ball well at times and rallying behind backup quarterback Michael Rocco.
Rocco came on in relief of a struggling Phillip Sims in the fourth quarter with the Cavaliers down 27-13 and promptly directed a 10-play, 81-yard drive. His 24-yard touchdown pass to Jake McGee pulled Virginia within 27-20 with 4:10 left.
But that was all the magic Rocco could muster. After a three-and-out by Maryland, the Cavaliers got the ball back at the Terrapins’ 49 with 1:51 left but four Rocco passes fell incomplete.
The Cavaliers, down 7-0, had their first possession ended when Anthony Nixon intercepted a Sims pass and returned it to the Virginia 32. Five plays later, Hills connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Justus Pickett to put Maryland ahead 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.
Virginia pinned the Terrapins at their own 2, but a 27-yard pass from Hills to Kevin Dorsey got Maryland out of trouble. On the next play, Diggs caught a pass and appeared to be hemmed in, but he reversed his field and wove his way down the right side for 60 yards. After two running plays lost yardage, the Terrapins settled for Brad Craddock’s 33-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 4:59 left in the quarter.
Maryland’s big pass plays negated a stellar effort by Virginia’s run defense. The Terrapins had zero yards rushing in the first half.
Sims, the Alabama transfer making his second start for the Cavaliers, had a rough outing. He had at least three passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, and he lost a fumble on a sack at the Virginia 15 in the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers were trying to come back from an 11-point deficit.
The Cavaliers continued to struggle converting points when they got the chance. After kicker Drew Jarrett’s line-drive field goal attempt was blocked, he was replaced by Ian Frye who was good from 20 yards on his first career try to cut Maryland’s lead to 17-3 at the half.
Virginia dodged a bullet in the third quarter when Maryland’s Matt Furstenburg dropped a sure touchdown pass, and Craddock’s field goal attempt clanked off the left upright.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, Virginia cut the margin to 17-10 on Sims’ 20-yard touchdown pass to a well-covered E.J. Scott, who caught the ball falling down in the back corner of the end zone.
On the next play, Virginia’s Will Hill recovered a Hills fumble at the Virginia 31. The Cavaliers reached the Maryland 3, but Sims’ third-down lob to tight end Jake McGee was incomplete and Virginia settled for Frye’s 22-yard field goal.
A personal foul penalty against Virginia after the field goal forced the Cavaliers to kick off from their 20, and Diggs’ return put the Terrapins in business at the Virginia 47. A 22-yard pass from Hills to Furstenburg set up Hills’ 6-yard touchdown run to make it 24-13.
Maryland added a 28-yard Craddock field goal after the Sims fumble.