Oct. 7, 2006
ATLANTA (AP) -Chan Gailey already knew his Georgia Tech team was talented.
Against Maryland, he learned something else just as important.
“This football team has a lot of character,” he said.
“These guys in here know that they didn’t play their best,” Gailey said. “We were very fortunate to win the football game, and it says a lot about our character, in my opinion.”
A mistake-prone Georgia Tech trailed Maryland 23-14 through three quarters, showing little resemblance to the team that won at Virginia Tech last week.
Tech rallied for the lead with fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Ball and Choice, but then came another stress test.
Maryland’s Sam Hollenbach completed a 57-yard pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey for a first down at the Georgia Tech 7 with a minute left. Backup defensive end Michael Johnson saved the Yellow Jackets by sacking Hollenbach on third and fourth downs.
Johnson, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound sophomore, had only one sack for the season before the two big plays.
“It happened so quick,” said Hollenbach of Johnson’s last sack. “You can’t have a sack in that situation. That’s killing me.”
Tech (5-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), which has an off week before playing at No. 15 Clemson on Oct. 21, won despite Travis Bell missing field goal attempts of 41 and 31 yards and failing to complete a pass on a faked field goal.
And star receiver Calvin Johnson fumbled inside the Tech 20 to set up a Maryland touchdown.
The Yellow Jackets also gave up a 100-yard kickoff return to Maryland’s Josh Wilson.
“I guess sometimes we’ve got to get it done the hard way,” Ball said. “That shows a lot about the character of this team.”
Choice rushed for a career-high 138 yards and two touchdowns. Ball added 84 yards rushing with a touchdown. Ball also passed for a touchdown to Calvin Johnson, who caught 10 passes for 133 yards.
Even with Tech’s balanced attack, Maryland (3-2 overall, 0-1 ACC) almost pulled off the upset.
“We did a lot of things right, but we fell apart in the second half,” said Hollenbach, who completed 16 of 24 passes for 190 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Bell’s last missed field goal try from 31 yards hit the left upright with 3:23 left, gave Maryland a final chance.
Hollenbach completed a pass to Heyward-Bey that would have been good for little more than a first down. But cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels slipped, leaving open field for Heyward-Bey to run to the Tech 7.
Two carries by Lance Ball gained only 2 yards, leaving Maryland with a third down at the 5. Michael Johnson harassed Hollenbach, who was penalized for intentional grounding.
On fourth-and-19, Michael Johnson again broke through for another sack to end the Terrapins’ upset bid.
“I’m real disappointed on this one,” said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. “I’m real disappointed for our kids and our fans. We’re kind of low right now.”
Maryland (3-2, 0-1) led 23-14 after three quarters before committing two turnovers in the final period.
After Tech pulled to within 23-21, Lance Ball, who rushed for 116 yards, lost a fumble at the Maryland 17 with 11:05 left. The ball was recovered by KaMichael Hall to set up the go-ahead 15-yard touchdown run by Choice.
The Terrapins then drove into Tech territory before Hollenbach’s fourth-and-2 pass from the 41 was intercepted by Kenny Scott.
“I thought our kids showed that they could play with this team,” Friedgen said. “We just gave them some gifts.”
Hollenbach’s 3-yard pass to tight end Joey Haynos, open in the middle of the end zone, gave the Terrapins a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Following Choice’s first score, Dan Ennis kicked a 46-yard field goal, the longest of his career, with 59 seconds left in the half to give Maryland a 20-14 lead. A 32-yard field goal by Ennis in the third quarter pushed the lead to 23-14.
Tech charged back in the final quarter.