Maryland quarterback Chris Turner did not play his best game Saturday. But he did not throw an interception against the team that was tied for the national lead in interceptions. And he engineered a memorable 19-play drive that included three successful third-down passes and one fourth-down scramble for nine yards.
Turner felt the biggest difference in the game was the running attack. Nine days after amassing minus-12 yards against Virginia Tech, Maryland nearly had two 100-yard rushers.
“The line did a great job,” Turner said. “It was very physical. I cannot explain how much easier my job is when you just hand the ball off and they get 10, 12 yards a pop. The running game was really the story of the day. We passed the ball pretty well, but we didn’t score a lot of points. We have to get better at scoring touchdowns.”
Turner also credited his defense because “coming out of the half it didn’t look like one field goal would be enough to win. But our defense gave the offense a lot of confidence.”
Turner, as well as Ralph Friedgen, felt very fortunate that North Carolina kept missing opportunities to score in the second half. A field goal bounced off the left upright. North Carolina then recovered Josh Portis’s fumble in good field position but threw three straight incompletions and punted.
“It was just a big sense of relief,” Turner said. “They missed field goals and didn’t convert third downs. We got a lot of breaks, and you need breaks.”
When Maryland began its decisive drive on its own 18-yard line, Turner thought: “In the back of my mind, I said we have been here before (N.C. State), let’s do it again. It was easier circumstances because the ball was not soaked. The ball was better in the second half.”
Turner is very grateful to have a veteran like Danny Oquendo, whom Turner calls his go-to guy on third down. And, about 40 minutes after the game ended, Turner was still shaking his head about Ronnie Tyler’s acrobatic 18-yard reception on third and 10 near midfield.
“I couldn’t believe he caught it,” Turner said. “It was an unbelievable catch. “Ronnie and Danny were unbelievable. I just throw the ball.”
On third and five from the North Carolina 32, Turner began to attempt a pass, saw the official in the way, tried to hold onto the ball, but said it slipped away and may have hit the official.
That set up a critical fourth down. Turner said he already knew Maryland was in four-down territory. He dropped back to pass but “they covered the routes pretty well. They had a good call and covered it pretty well. It was in the back of my mind, if they are in man coverage I might have a chance to run. The line blocked well. No one was guarding me, so I just took off.”
He said it was the biggest play he has ever made with his legs.
Nine days after falling in the ACC standings because of the Virginia Tech loss, Maryland has sole possession of first place and control of its own fate.
“Here we go again,” Turner said of the wild swings from week to week. “It seems like we are talking about the same thing every Saturday. It seems like we get a huge win after a devastating loss every week. A lot of it has to do with playing at home. I think we like playing at home.”
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