ATLANTA (AP) -- Chan Gailey already knew his Georgia Tech team
Against Maryland, he learned something else just as important.
"This football team has a lot of character," he said.
The No. 18 Yellow Jackets rallied with 13 fourth-quarter points
behind Tashard Choice and Reggie Ball, then survived a last-minute
scare to beat Maryland 27-23 on Saturday.
"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
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
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.
Reggie Ball completed a key third-down pass to James Johnson for
11 yards to Maryland's 25. Choice ran for 17 yards and Reggie Ball
scored on a run from the 8 to cut Maryland's lead to 23-21.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... In the fourth quarter. Maryland held the lead for most of the game, but the Yellow Jackets scoreed two TDs in two minutes to take the lead and the game.
Gameball goes to... Tashard Choice. Georgia Tech's junior back gained 138 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Calvin Johnson added 133 yards and 1 TD.
Stat of the game... 229: Georgia Tech's passing game usually gets all the cred, but it was the running game that tallied 229 of its 390 offensive yards.