College Park, Md. — Ralph Friedgen had just helped orchestrate the biggest comeback victory in Rutgers history, and the last thing he wanted to do was talk about himself or his strange return to Maryland.
Yet there were questions to be asked, so Friedgen reluctantly pulled himself away from family and friends to address reporters after the Scarlet Knights rallied from a 25-point deficit to beat Maryland, 41-38, Saturday.
Now the offensive coordinator at Rutgers, Friedgen served as head coach at Maryland, his alma mater, before being dismissed after the 2010 season. The scoreboard acknowledged his presence late in the first quarter with a "Welcome Back" message and a quick shot of him watching the game from an upstairs booth.
"The whole thing about Maryland, to me it's ancient history," Friedgen said. "It's kind of a little weird. The seniors and some of the redshirt kids were either playing for me as freshmen or recruits when I left. So I'm kind of very proud of them and how they progressed."
Friedgen didn't talk to the media in the days leading up to the game, and he wasn't too crazy about doing so afterward.
"I really didn't want this game to be about me," he said. "I want our players to play for themselves. I'm just a coach. I want to see them enjoy winning."
With Friedgen leading the way, that's exactly what happened.
His offense amassed 491 yards, Gary Nova threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns, and three receivers finished with more than 100 yards. Janarion Grant had eight catches for 105 yards; Andre Patton had eight receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns; and Leonte Carroo caught six passes for 104 yards and two scores.
The Scarlet Knights (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) trailed 35-10 late in the first half before closing to 35-17 at the break. It would be the first of four straight possessions that ended in touchdowns.
"I didn't say a whole lot to them at halftime," Friedgen said. "I said we were leaving a lot of plays on the field. We've got to catch the ball better, we've got to throw the ball better and we've got to stop the penalties. If you do that, we'll be in the game. We'll play a lot looser in the second half. So either we'll get beat real, real bad or we're going to come back and win this game."
Rutgers took its first lead when Kyle Federico kicked a 25-yard field goal with 6:14 left, and Maryland (7-5, 4-4) couldn't rally.
After Brad Craddock failed on a 54-yard field goal attempt, his first miss in 19 tries this season, the Terrapins recovered a fumble at the Rutgers 45 with 2:54 remaining. But Brandon Ross was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1, dooming the Terrapins to an unsightly defeat on Senior Day.
"It hurts a lot, there's no doubt about that," Terps coach Randy Edsall said
Playing his final home game at Maryland, sixth-year quarterback C.J. Brown went 14-for-24 for 195 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 107 yards and a score.
Ross had 108 yards rushing on 10 carries and scored twice.
"It's disappointing, to say the least," Edsall said. "When we needed to make plays, we didn't. We had trouble stopping them on defense, and when we did we made some errors that gave them extra possessions."
Rutgers began its comeback when a roughing-the-kicker call extended a drive that produced a 1-yard touchdown pass from Nova to Patton just before halftime.
Grant returned the opening kickoff of the second half 71 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run Robert Martin. Then, after a Maryland punt, Nova threw an 8-yard TD pass to Carroo to make it 35-31.
A 50-yard field goal by Craddock interrupted the surge, but Nova tied it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Patton with 14:55 to go.
The Scarlet Knights outscored Maryland 24-3 in the second half to earn their second win in six games and clinch a winning record overall in their first season in the Big Ten.
Moments after honoring 22 seniors before their final home game, the Terrapins took the opening kickoff and put together a drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Brown.
After Rutgers kicked a field goal, Brown opened the second quarter with a quick pass to Amba Etta-Tawo, who made the catch in stride while cutting across the middle and pulled away for a 71-yard score.
Nova responded with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Carroo, and Ross answered with a 9-yard TD run.
The game's first turnover followed. Sean Davis caused Nova to fumble, Cole Farrand recovered on the Rutgers 40 and Ross scored on the next play to make it 28-10.
Minutes later, Brown threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Deon Long.