Nov 10, 1984: The Greatest Comeback in College Football History

Nov 10, 1984: The Greatest Comeback in College Football History

From 1973-1985, the University of Maryland football program was enjoying a renaissance.  After winning the national championship in 1953, the Terrapins had only 1 bowl appearance over the next 20 years.  But starting in 1973, Maryland had

  • 12 winning seasons
  • 11 Bowl appearances
  • 9 top 20 seasons; and
  • 6 ACC championships.

Maryland had a rocky start to the 1984 season, falling to 2-3 after losing to #11 Penn State but would not lose again the rest of the season.  On November 10th, they went to the Orange Bowl to face the defending national champion and sixth-ranked University of Miami led by Bernie Kosar.  After Miami jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead, Coach Bobby Ross switched quarterbacks with Frank Reich taking over.

Reich would lead the Terrapins to the end zone on five straight possessions (with 12-15 passing for 260 yards and three touchdowns), culminating with a 68-yard touchdown pass to Greg Hill to put Maryland up 35-34.

A fumble on the ensuing kickoff set up another touchdown and a 42-34 lead.  Kosar would get the ball back with less than 2 minutes to go and throw his fourth touchdown pass of the day, but the Maryland defense stopped the two-point conversion for the win.  Coach Jimmy Johnson called the loss “the most disappointing loss I have ever been associated with,” which remains as the Greatest Comeback in Division 1 College Football.

Post Script

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#1:  Maryland would follow-up on the Miami win by crushing #20 Clemson 41-23 and then beating Virginia to win their second of three consecutive ACC titles.  Maryland would beat Tennessee in the Sun Bowl to finish #9 in the USAToday poll.  After Ross left in 1986, Maryland has finished ranked only four times.

#2: The Maryland comeback was not the only Orange Bowl miracle that season.  Miami’s very next game was at home against Boston College led by Quarterback Doug Flutie who sealed his Heisman Trophy with this incredible game ending “Hail Mary” pass to win.

#3: Frank Reich was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and served as a backup to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.  But in 1993, he led the greatest comeback in NFL history as he led the Bills back from 35-3 deficit to beat Houston 41-38 in the AFC Wild-Card Game.

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