On November 10, 1984, at the Orange Bowl, the University of Maryland’s backup quarterback Frank Reich throws six touchdown passes against the University of Miami in the second half, completing an improbable comeback. The Terrapins, who had been losing 31-0 at the half, ended up winning the game 42-40. “In the first half, everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong,” one of Reich’s teammates said. “In the second half, everything that could possibly go right, went right.”
In the first two quarters of the game, Miami out-gained the Terps 328 yards to 57 and ran up their 31-point lead–but they didn’t do it graciously. “The comeback never would’ve happened if it had not been for the attitude of the Miami Hurricanes,” one Maryland player remembered. “No question about it. Those guys were the biggest cheap-shot, trash-talking, classless outfit of football players I’ve ever seen in my life.” He added: “You can almost take getting beat if a team is kicking your butts and they’re doing it cleanly. And there was no question that they were kicking our butts in the first half. But that team made us mad, and it gave us a little extra incentive.” And the Terps dug in their heels.
For the second half, Maryland’s coach replaced first-string quarterback Stan Gelbaugh with Reich, who had a steady, consistent arm. The new QB completed 12 of 15 passes and gained 260 yards. In the third quarter, he threw two touchdown passes and ran a third in himself to cut Miami’s lead to 34-21. In the fourth, he drove 55 yards in nine plays, and his teammate Tommy Neal scored a 14-yard touchdown to make the score 34-28. Then, with about nine and a half minutes left to play, Reich threw a long pass that glanced off Miami safety Darrell Fullington’s hands and landed in Maryland player Greg Hill’s, who ran it in for another touchdown. The score was 35-34, and the Terps had the lead.
Then Miami fumbled the kickoff and Maryland’s Rick Badanjek grabbed the ball and scored again. Now the Terrapins were winning 42-34. For a minute, it looked like Reich’s luck had run out–Miami got the ball after a bad punt snap and scored a quick touchdown, making the score 42-40–but Terp Keeta Covington prevented the two-point conversion and preserved Maryland’s miraculous victory.
To many fans and journalists, the 1984 Orange Bowl was college football’s greatest and most exciting comeback. And Reich went on to become the second-string quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, where he was responsible for one of the greatest comebacks in pro football history: In 1993, he threw four second-half touchdown passes for the Bills, who came from a 35-3 deficit to beat Houston 41-38.