It was a deceptively complex play in what turned into a 22-point loss for the Maryland football team. For Maryland junior receiver Daniel Adams, it was a lot more.
With Maryland down, 9-0, late in the first half against Michigan State, Adams, a backup wideout, lined up in the right slot, flanking quarterback C.J. Brown. Adams faked toward the sideline and then ran toward the goalposts, finding a seam in the Spartans' secondary and hauling in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Brown on Saturday night.
"It was actually a trick play," Adams said. His initial cut toward the sideline was designed to make the play look like a screen from Brown to Amba Etta-Tawo, with Adams as a blocker. Michigan State's defenders either swooped toward Etta-Tawo or tried to run down the sideline with Jacquille Veii. Adams, for his part, just ran down the center of the field. Brown found him, and Adams held the ball through a last-gasp hit from safety R.J. Williamson.
"Touchdown," Adams recalled. "It felt great, man. Didn't believe it happened when it did."
Football games have lots of plays. This one had 138 offensive snaps, very few of them memorable. But for Adams, a transfer wide receiver buried so deep on Maryland's roster he hadn't even appeared on a depth chart until this week, this play was especially significant. It was his first career catch at Maryland and, of course, his first score. He tacked on a 19-yard catch later on in the game.
Adams took a winding road to even get on the field for Maryland on Saturday, let alone catch a touchdown pass in front of a national television audience a sellout crowd of more than 50,000.
"Man, I can't even explain it," Adams said. "It feels great, and like I said before, glory to God for it. He created this opportunity for me, and I knew that it was primetime. I've been through a lot, I've had a lot of ups and downs here, but I knew in my mind and I was confident that I was going to make a play for my team, and that's what I did."
A Washington native, Adams played as a freshman in 2011 at New Mexico under current Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. He transferred to Maryland after Locksley was hired in College Park, but he had to sit out all of 2012 because of the NCAA's transfer rules. Then he only appeared in four games in 2013 and did not record a catch. He'd been injured earlier this year, too, and wasn't available for the season's first few weeks.
It took a suspension to Stefon Diggs for Adams to show up on the depth chart this week, and even then only as a co-backup to usual backup Veii. Adams made the most of his shot, and he said afterward he hoped to get more of them. Particularly with Diggs's medical status unclear, he just might, even if only over the next few weeks.
A reporter asked Adams after the game if the hit he took made it hard to hold the ball on his touchdown.
"Oh, no, no no, no, no," Adams said. "Once I had that in my paws, I held on for deal life, and it felt great to come out with it in my hands."