MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – When Maryland halted Miami’s drive and forced the Hurricanes to punt with 5:22 left, coach Ralph Friedgen had no intentions of putting his defense back on the field.
Davin Meggett had three carries for eight yards on the drive. File photo by Christopher Blunck.
Maryland was leading, 20-18, and Miami had no timeouts, having used all three in the third quarter. The Terps took over at their 10-yard line.
“I wanted to run the clock, they were out of timeouts,” Friedgen said. “I felt like if I could get it down under three minutes, we probably win the football game.”
Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin had to weigh several factors in approaching the drive. They knew one first down, in all likelihood, would take the clock down to less than two minutes. Two first downs would likely seal the game.
But Maryland’s position on the field made things trickier. If it came out aggressive it might have a better chance at getting a first down, but there was the risk of a turnover deep in its territory.
“The other thing I didn’t want to do is turn it over down there,” Friedgen said. “With them not having any timeouts, we throw an incompletion I’m helping them.”
If the Terps played it safer, there was little risk of a turnover but it might be more difficult to gain 10 yards.
Friedgen and Franklin opted for runs on first and second down. Davin Meggett, who before that drive had six carries for 62 yards, gained three yards on first down and one yard on second down.
The third-down play was a run-pass option. If Miami was in one-on-one coverage, Danny O’Brien would throw. If it came out in a cover-2, O’Brien would hand it off to Meggett. The Hurricanes showed the latter, and Meggett ran to the right side for four yards, two yards short of the first down.
“I really thought Davin, if he cut outside, might have made the first. It’s just one of those things,” Friedgen said.
Travis Baltz punted 62 yards from one 18-yard line to the other, and Miami took over with 3:06 left. Seven plays later, quarterback Stephen Morris hit Leonard Hankerson for a 35-yard touchdown, giving Miami the 26-20 victory.
Asked if he had any regrets about how he approached the drive, Franklin shook his head.
“I have to go back and evaluate the film, but none whatsoever,” he said. “That’s four-minute offense, you can second guess all you want. But if you’re able to run the ball when you have the possession with the lead and you’re trying to eat the clock up and give yourself an opportunity to win and end the game on your terms, that’s what you try to do.”
He added: “That’s the next step we have to take offensively, is we got be able to, with the lead, be able to run the ball and put people away and not put our defense back on the field. So that’s an area I think we can still improve.”
Said Friedgen: “In a perfect world I would have liked to make two first downs, take a knee and go home. But we live in far from a perfect world.”