COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- For three quarters, California appeared to be sleepwalking against Maryland.
That's what happens when you have a noon kickoff, which translates to an ungodly 9 a.m. on the West Coast.
Maryland scored touchdowns on its first three possessions Saturday en route to a stunning 35-27 upset of No. 23 California. The Golden Bears didn't reach the end zone until the closing minutes, and by then it was far too late.
"We weren't ready to start the game," said Cal quarterback Kevin Riley, who made up for his team's surprisingly ineffective running attack by going 33-for-58 for 423 yards and three scores. The 58 passes were a school record.
Coming off a 10-point loss to unheralded Middle Tennessee State, the Terrapins were given little chance against a California juggernaut that totaled 104 points in disposing of Michigan State and Pac-10 foe Washington State.
But, unlike the Golden Bears, Maryland was ready at the outset. The Terrapins put California in an immediate hole, and the deficit proved too much to overcome.
"That was important," Maryland quarterback Chris Turner said. "They were on the road, it was an early game, they were adjusting to the time and all that. To be able to get off to an early lead was pretty good."
Da'Rel Scott ran for 87 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with a shoulder injury, Turner threw for scores and the Terps (2-1) used a relentless defense to harass the Golden Bears (2-1) from the start.
California scored three touchdowns in the final seven minutes, but it was too late.
"It was tough," Bears tight end Tad Smith said. "The offense wasn't firing in the first three quarters and the defense was playing a little sluggish."
The Terrapins led 21-3 early in the second quarter, 21-6 at halftime and 28-6 after three quarters. The victory elevated the stature of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which has struggled against non-league competition this season.
"The ACC's been taking a hit all year," Maryland guard Jaimie Thomas said. "People believe we're not one of the top conferences. I believe we are. If people don't want to believe that, come play us and see what happens."
Coming off a 66-3 rout of Washington State, California took its first journey to the East Coast since 2001. The trip back did not promise to be nearly as fun.
California's Jahvid Best, who amassed 311 yards rushing in his first two games, was at minus-1 after his first five carries. He also absorbed a very hard hit on a short pass with three minutes left in the second quarter and did not return until after halftime.
Best finished with 25 yards on 10 carries.
"We just didn't open up very many holes for him today," coach Jeff Tedford said. "We didn't dominate the line of scrimmage. We got beat up front, offensively and defensively."
Riley's 10-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Morrah with 6:55 left made it 28-13, but the Terrapins recovered the ensuing onside kick and needed only two plays to reach the end zone. Two late TDs by the California narrowed the gap, but Maryland got the onside kick after those scores, too.
The game ended with Turner taking a knee on three straight plays.
"It's so gratifying," said Turner, who threw three interceptions last week. "It feels great."
After Cal failed to get a first down on its opening possession, Maryland moved 60 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead. Scott accounted for 44 yards rushing on the drive, including a 24-yard touchdown run.
Riley was then intercepted by Kevin Barnes, who ran 17 yards to the Cal 14. Four plays later, Scott scored from the 1 to make it 14-0.
It was 14-3 before the Terrapins moved 60 yards in a 14-play drive culminated by a 1-yard touchdown pass from Turner to Dan Gronkowski. Turner went 7-for-10 for 55 yards and converted three third downs.
California answered with a field goal by David Seawright. At the end of the half, however, Seawright hit the left upright on a 25-yard try.
"We got behind early. We got into the red zone and we just couldn't score touchdowns," Tedford said. "That's a problem. You can't settle for field goals."
Maryland went up 28-6 in the third quarter on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Turner to Darrius Heyward-Bey.