BLACKSBURG, Virginia — All season long, as Virginia Tech's offense struggled, its defense held down the fort.
On Saturday, in the Hokies' biggest game of the season, it struggled, too, and Virginia Tech's 27-24 overtime loss to Maryland came as much because of missed tackles as any offensive performance issues.
"Their quarterback was good," linebacker Jack Tyler said of the Terps' C.J. Brown. "He was elusive. He could break tackles. We just didn't tackle very well. That'll get you beat in just about any game."
Brown ran for 122 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown in overtime to win it. The play brought the Terrapins spilling into the end zone to celebrate, even as the officials said it was under review.
The play stood.
"Obviously, it was pretty awful to watch," Tyler said of the celebration.
"We got together as a group after the overtime started and basically said there's no way we're going to lose this game," he said. But Maryland needed only four offensive plays to prove him wrong.
The Hokies (7-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) came into the game needing only to win, and then beat Virginia, and hope Duke would lose one of its three remaining games. That would have put Virginia Tech into the conference championship against No. 2 Florida State with a long-shot chance at earning a BCS bowl berth.
The Terrapins (6-4, 2-4) arrived at Lane Stadium for Senior Day having lost four of five, but scored three consecutive touchdowns to open a commanding 21-7 lead, then held on after the Hokies pulled even with 9:32 to play in regulation. In the overtime, the Terps limited Virginia Tech to a field goal.
Trailing 24-21, the Terps made quick work of the Hokies.
Brandon Ross ran for 7 yards on first down, and 15 on second down, getting the ball to the Hokies 3. After Ross was stopped for no gain, Brown rolled left and dove for the end zone just inside the pylon.
The Hokies got the ball first in overtime, and got a huge assist from Maryland in the way of a 15-yard pass interference call against Alvin Hill. That sent them up with first-and-goal at the 9, but three plays lost 5 yards and Eric Kristensen parted the uprights from 31 yards for his first career field goal.
Kristensen, who earlier missed a 34-yard field goal, was a freshman walk-on elevated to the job only this week after regular place-kicker Cody Journell was dismissed from the teams for violating a team rule.
The Hokies came out sharp, but after a crisp early scoring drive, their offense went stagnant.
Despite struggling offensively, Virginia Tech did just enough to pull even.
Thomas capped a 12-yard drive set up by Demitri Knowles' 88-yard kickoff return with a 1-yard pass to D.J. Coles, and he finished a 65-yard drive with a 5-yard TD pass to Willie Byrn with 9:32 remaining.
Thomas was 19 for 31 for 210 yards. The Terrapins also had seven sacks for minus-48 yards.
After the Hokies pulled even, neither team got much of anything done on offense the rest of the way.
Maryland went ahead 21-7 with the opening drive of the second half, and did it quickly.
With Virginia Tech no doubt geared to stop Brown from running, he hit Amba Etta-Tawo for 43 yards to get the ball to the Hokies 16, and Nigel King for the touchdown on the next play. The play to King was originally ruled an incomplete pass or drop, but the officials overturned it after review.
Brown's running ability gave the Terps a 14-7 lead. After he hit Etta-Tawo for 17 yards and a 15-yard roughing the passer against James Gayle was tacked on, Brown scrambled for 16 yards. He spiked the ball to stop the clock, ran 7 yards to get the ball to the Hokies 1 and took it in on the next play.
Maryland drew even in the second quarter when William Likely, who had returned the previous punt 37 yards, fielded a short punt at the 37, cut upfield and went 63 yards for a touchdown. It was the second punt return touchdown against the Hokies this season; Alabama's Christion Jones returned one 72 yards.
The Hokies drove 76 yards for a touchdown with their second possession. Thomas hit D.J. Coles for 12 yards, Trey Edmunds for 11 with a 15-yard face-masking penalty tacked on, and Kalvin Cline for 31 to get the ball to the Terps 12. Two runs by Edmunds and Kristensen's extra point made it 7-0.
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