Honoring Maryland’s Most Memorable Season: Ole Miss Can’t Catch Lightning in a Bottle

19 games. That was the length of the winning streak the Maryland Terrapin football squad carried into Oxford, Mississippi in November 1952 before the Ole Miss Rebels spoiled their chances at a perfect season, beating the Terps 21-14. Just one year later, the 11th-ranked Rebels found themselves in the same exact position: win and blemish Maryland’s spotless 8-0 record. On November 14th,1953, in front a Byrd Stadium crowd of 35,000, the stage was set for one of college football’s biggest contests of the year.

If there was any team who wasn’t intimidated by Maryland and their undefeated record it was Mississippi, who had beaten a very talented, undefeated Maryland team the year before, and had improved since then.  Physicality, speed, talent–each was a toss-up between the two sides.  Maryland head coach Jim Tatum knew that if he didn’t want to get caught in the same trap as last year, he would have to find a way to combat the prolific Ole Miss passing offense that had halted the previous win streak. Could Ole Miss pull off a shocker two years in a row?

Blocking was the key to Maryland's offensive success
Blocking was the key to Maryland’s offensive success

The answer was a resounding NO. Whether it was revenge, or Maryland at the very top of their game, the Terps gave the Rebels a shellacking all over Byrd Stadium and sent them home with a 38-0 shutout loss, proving they could play their very best football against one of the nation’s top programs.

After what was a slow first quarter by both teams, the Terps quickly jumped out to a 24-0 lead at halftime by capitalizing on Ole Miss turnovers.  With Stan Jones anchoring the Terps’ vicious defensive line, and Bernie Faloney roaming the secondary, Ole Miss’ offensive efforts were hopeless. The Rebels completed only nine passes all day while Maryland’s ball-hawking defensive backs picked off six others.  By game’s end, Ole Miss had a whopping eight turnovers, and had been held to almost 300 yards fewer than the previous season’s match-up.  Meanwhile, Maryland’s running attack amassed 296 yards, a huge day aided by some superb blocking, especially by halfback Ronnie Waller, whose critical down-field blocks sprung long gains. It was a long day in College Park for the Rebels, and for the Terps, it was a performance to be proud of.

score summaryWith only one regular season game remaining against a rugged Alabama team, Maryland had a rare opportunity: finish the year undefeated and repeat their 1951 perfect season. Just one more win would earn the Terps an Orange Bowl bid, and the opportunity to be voted national champions.

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