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On This Date in Sports November 10, 1984: Frank Reich, Captain Comeback

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

 

Maryland stuns Miami 42-40 at the Orange Bowl, completing the biggest comeback in the history of College Football. The Terrapins trailed 31-0 at halftime when coach Bobby Ross benched quarterback Stan Gelbaugh in favor of Frank Reich. After managing just 57yards of total offense in the first half, Maryland had a complete reversal of fortunes as Reich completed 12 of 15 passes for 260 yards with three touchdown passes and a touchdown run.

The Miami Hurricanes were starting their rise as a national power. Coming off their first National Championship, the University of Miami was in their first season under Jimmy Johnson, who replaced Howard Schnellenberger, who had left with the hope of bringing a USF: team to Miami that ultimately fell through. Heading into a home game against Maryland, the Hurricanes were ranked sixth with a record of 8-2. After a slow start, Maryland came into the game with three straight wins, holding a record of 5-3.

As Miami often did under Jimmy Johnson, they not only looked to get a big lead, but they looked to embarrass their opponent. Led by Bernie Kosar, the Hurricanes outgained the Terrapins 328-57. Hoping to salvage something in the second half, Maryland coach Bobby Ross replaced Stan Gelbaugh with Frank Reich, who was the team’s longtime backup quarterback. Having sat behind Boomer Esiason for three years before losing the job to Gelbaugh early in the season.

Maryland’s comeback started quickly, as Frank Reich had a pair of touchdown passes and ran in a third to make the score 34-21. With the momentum clearly on the side of Maryland, Reich led a nine-play 55-yard touchdown drive to close the gap to one score, as Tommy Neal scored on a 14-yard run. The Terrapins would take the lead midway through the fourth quarter as Greg Hill caught a 68-yard pass deflected off the hands of Miami safety Darrell Fullington. On the ensuing kickoff, Miami fumbled, setting up Maryland at the six-yard line, setting up a touchdown run by Rick Badanjek. Late in the fourth quarter, Miami revered fortunes on Maryland, scoring a touchdown after a botched snap on a punt. However, as the Hurricanes attempted to tie the game with a two-point conversion, Keeta Covington made the crucial stop to preserve the 42-40 win.

Two weeks later, Miami suffered an equally stunning loss to Boston College on Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass. They would finish the season with three straight losses with an 8-5 record after a 39-37 loss to UCLA in the Fiesta Bowl. Maryland meanwhile finished the season strong, winning the ACC and the Sun Bowl against Tennessee to post a final record of 9-3. Thanks to the comeback, Frank Reich was drafted in the third round by the Buffalo Bills. Like his college career, Reich was a backup for most of his time in the NFL, though in the 1992 AFC Wild Card Game, he led the biggest comeback in NFL history from down 35-3 against the Houston Oilers.