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NCAA Classic Rewind: Reich Leads Maryland to Historic Comeback over ‘Canes

Posted on August 29, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Frank Reich completed 12 of 15 passes for 260 yards and led the 'Terps to six straight touchdowns in the second half.

Years before he led the greatest comeback in NFL history, Frank Reich was at the helm in the greatest comeback in college football history when he led the Maryland Terrapins back from a 31-point deficit and to a 42-40 win over the Miami Hurricanes on November 10, 1984.

Reich arrived at the University of Maryland in 1980 but did not get much playing time as he was redshirted during his freshman season and then was the back-up to Boomer Esiason from 1981 through 1983.
Reich finally got his chance as the starter in 1984 but in the fourth game of the season, Reich separated his shoulder and was replaced by Stan Gelbaugh, who was still the starter when the 5-3 Terrapins arrived at the Orange Bowl to face off against the defending national champions.
Miami entered the game with as the #6 ranked team in the country with an 8-2 record under first-year head coach Jimmy Johnson, who had come from Oklahoma State to replace the departed Howard Schellenberger.
The ‘Canes were led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Bernie Kosar, who was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy and all-American wide receiver Eddie Brown.
Riding a five-game winning streak, the Hurricanes continued their hot play in the first half as they complied 328 yards of total offense and 19 first downs, while holding the Terrapins to 57 yards of offense and three first downs, to build a 31-0 halftime lead thanks to three touchdown passes from Kosar.
Things were certainly bleak for the Terrapins and it appeared it was not going to get much better as the ‘Canes would receive the opening kickoff of the second half.
But the Terrapin defense rose up and got a turnover when linebacker Scott Schankweiler intercepted a Kosar pass on Miami’s first series of the half, giving the Terrapins great field position and a chance for their first points of the game.
This is when Maryland head coach Bobby Ross inserted Reich into the game to replace Gelbaugh, in hopes of providing a spark to the Terrapin offense.

Miami Quarterback Bernie Kosar carved up the Maryland defense for 240 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.

Reich provided the spark Maryland on his third snap of the game when he dropped back and launched a long bomb to Greg Hill, who caught it for a 39-yard touchdown and the Terrapins’ first points of the game, making it 31-7.
Maryland started to build some momentum as the defense forced Miami to punt for the first time in the game on their next possession, then drove 60 yards in eight plays, culminating with a one-yard touchdown run by Reich that cut the ‘Canes lead to 31-14 with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
However, Miami seemed to get back on track on their next offensive possession when fullback Melvin Bratton caught a screen pass from Kosar and raced 53 yards to the Maryland eight where he was tackled by defensive back Keeta Covington, saving a touchdown and forcing a 19-yard field goal by Greg Cox that extended the Hurricanes’ lead to 34-14.
But Reich continued the Terps’ comeback as he led an 11-play, 80-yard drive which ended with a one-yard touchdown pass from Reich to Alvin Blount with five seconds before the end of the third quarter to put Maryland in striking distance at 34-21.
Following a Miami punt, Reich led Maryland to their fourth straight touchdown as Tommy Neal took it in from 14 yards out to narrow the Hurricanes’ seemingly insurmountable lead to six points at 34-28 with 9:20 to go.
The ‘Canes went three-and-out on their next offensive series, punting the ball back to Maryland who it took over at their own 32-yard-line with a chance to take the lead.
On the second play of the drive, Reich dropped back and launched a long bomb which was intended for Hill, but the ball was underthrown and appeared it was going to be intercepted by Miami safety Darrell Fullington at around the Hurricanes’ 30-yard-line.
But the ball deflected off Fullington’s fingertips and into the hands of Hill, who then raced in the last 30 yards to complete the remarkable 68-yard touchdown and following the extra point, the Terrapins had their first lead of the game at 35-34.
The nightmare for Miami was not over as J.C. Penny fumbled the ensuing kickoff which was recovered by Maryland’s Lewis Askew at the Hurricanes’ six-yard-line, setting up a four-yard touchdown run by Rick Bandajek to increase the Terrapin lead to 42-34 with 4:42 left in the game.
Now behind by eight points, Kosar and the Hurricanes launched their own comeback effort as they drove from their own 22 to the Maryland 35-yard-line, but the drive ended when linebacker Richie Pettibon picked off at his own 34-yard-line, giving the Terrapins a chance to run out the clock with 2:55 to go.
However, Maryland could not get a first down and were set to punt the ball back to Miami on fourth down when punter Darryl Wright fumbled the snap, which was recovered by Victor Morris at the Maryland 18-yard-line with 1:50 left in the game.
Four plays later, Kosar connected with Brown for a five-yard touchdown that put Miami within a two-point conversion of tying the game at 42-40.
On the two-point try, Kosar lofted a screen pass that was caught by Bratton, but was tackled at the line of scrimmage by Covington preserving the 42-40 lead with 57 seconds to go.
Miami’s last chance to salvage a win was to recover the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but Maryland’s Joe Kraus come away with the football and raced 47 yards to the Hurricanes’ one-yard-line where the Terrapins took a knee to run out the remaining time on the clock and complete the historic 42-40 comeback victory.
If losing a game after leading by 31 points wasn’t bad enough, the Hurricanes would endure another heartbreaking loss two weeks earlier when they fell victim to Doug Flutie’s 48-yard “Hail Mary” touchdown pass as time expired to give his Boston College Eagles a 47-45 victory.
Miami ended the season with a 39-37 loss to UCLA in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the season with an 8-5 record.
As for Maryland, they would win their last three games with Reich at the helm as the starter including a 22-21 win over Tennessee in the Sun Bowl where the Terrapins overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit.
Reich would be drafted by the Buffalo Bills and would back up Jim Kelly during the Bills’ four-year-run as AFC Champions, but filled in for an injured Kelly in the 1992 AFC Wild Card Game and led Buffalo back from a 32-point deficit for a 41-38 overtime victory over the Houston Oilers in the greatest comeback in NFL history.
Reich had the distinction of leading the greatest comeback in NFL and college football history for nearly 14 years until 2006 when Michigan State came back from 38-3 deficit to score 38 unanswered points and defeat Northwestern 41-38.

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