COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- After Saturday's 34-30 victory over Maryland, the focal point of many seemed to be the thrilling scoring drive that ended with 26 seconds left and gave Virginia the victory. Dan Ellis looked great under pressure, directing the Cavaliers down the field with little time on the clock and no timeouts, but the praise after the game ignored one crucial fact: The Cavs were very lucky to get their seventh win Saturday.
Yes, a win is a win, and the regular season is now over and all that really matters is that Virginia is going to a bowl game.
Well, that's great and all, but does anyone remember the rest of the game?
The Cavs led 17-0 in the first quarter, before allowing Maryland to come back to tie the game at the half. The Terps totaled 232 rushing yards in the first half, with Terrapin tailback LaMont Jordan alone amassing 145 yards .
For a defense that usually is tough against the run, those numbers are alarming.
"We bounced back like true champions," Maryland Coach Ron Vanderlinden said. "We had a fighting heart out there. We were down 17-0 in the first quarter and to come back the way we did was nothing short of sensational on both sides of the ball. I can't believe the statistics I'm looking at ... The numbers are astronomical. I can't believe these numbers and that we lost the game."
Part of the Cavs' defensive weakness can be attributed to the absence of middle linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle, who was diagnosed with mononucleosis Thursday. Then first-year safety Jerton Evans sustained a concussion in the first quarter and missed the rest of the game.
"Isabelle got mononucleosis," Cav Coach George Welsh said. "That was a shock. I think it sent the defense to start shaking their heads again ... We're a better team with Isabelle in the middle. We're just short of people."
Maybe so. But the Maryland offense still made the Virginia defense look like swiss cheese.
Especially when Jordan ran for a 90-yard score in the third quarter, as part of Maryland's 445 total rushing yards on the day.
Jordan amassed 306 yards on 37 carries, a new career high. It also is the third-highest total for a single game in ACC history.
Jordan "had a great game, probably the finest game ever on this field," Vanderlinden said. It was "one of the great performances in college football history. ... LaMont Jordan is clearly one of the great players in all of America and in the history of running backs."
Jordan now has 3,224 career yards, putting him as only the fourth person in ACC history to amass over 3,000 yards as a junior. His 1,629 yards is a Maryland single-season record.
And while there is no question that Jordan is a very fine back, the Virginia defense helped make him look like a Heisman candidate, while the Cavaliers' own Thomas Jones, a Heisman contender, totaled 91 yards on 28 carries. Jones' performance was his second-lowest of the season.
"To battle back and take control of the game, with 500 yards rushing, hold the all-time ACC running back under 100 yards with 28 carries," Vanderlinden said, "I thought that was tremendous effort by our guys."
With a total of 514 offensive yards, Maryland showed their effort throughout Saturday's game on both sides of the ball. And until that last drive, the effort didn't seem to be there for the Cavaliers. The defense appeared to be getting its cues wrong and the offense made some crucial errors as well, including two fumbles in the fourth quarter, which set the Terps up for a field goal.
A win is a win. And this one meant a lot for the Cavaliers. But before it was all said and done, Maryland gave Virginia quite a scare.