Maryland had their chances to beat Miami. Twice in the red zone they came up with field goals despite opportunities for touchdowns. Bad coverages gave up points. And they had the Canes on a 3rd and long with under a minute to go and a two-point lead. Ultimately, Miami QB Stephen Morris scrambled for 16 yards and a first down before hitting Leonard Hankerson on a 35-yard touchdown pass with :37 left to give Miami the win and the final margin of 26-20.
This wasn't a game Maryland deserved to win. It's not really a game in which they deserved to be close. Miami was missing their starting QB and their starting RB, and yet put up a season-high 504 yards of total offense. The Terps countered with just 242 of their own. Danny O'Brien was 9-26. Maryland scored only one offensive TD, coming up short inside the five yard line twice. They were gifted ten points by the referees on a phantom facemask that called back a Miami touchdown and set up a Maryland field goal.
And still, it's worth noting, Maryland would've had a win had they just stopped Miami one final time.
Maryland scored 17 points in the second quarter, including a 42-yard TD pass to Kevin Dorsey and a 60-yard interception return by Alex Wujciak, to take a 17-15 lead into the half, thanks in part to two Miami botched PATs. Miami kicked a field goal in the third quarter which was followed by an interesting sequence that almost sealed the game: on a third down, Danny O'Brien was hit from behind and fumbled the ball, which was picked up by a Cane and run into the endzone. It looked like the game was over, but a flag came in and the referees ruled that a facemask occurred before the fumble, giving Maryland the ball back plus 15 yards despite the fact that replays didn't show the same thing.
But the Terps couldn't capitalize and ended up with only a field goal. The two traded punts before Morris and Hankerson hooked up with the game-winning TD in the final minute.
Offensively, it wasn't pretty. Danny O'Brien's stats were the worst of his season, going 8-26 with an interception and just 122 yards, though he can thank five first-half drops and three missed pass interference calls for some of that. The running game, which was the weak spot of both Maryland's offense and Miami's defense coming into the game, was quiet except for one huge 37-yarder from Davin Meggett. In fact, outside of that run and the TD catch, there was almost nothing going on offensively.
Defensively, it was even worse. Miami feasted on the run and, outside of a few blown up plays, Maryland's defensive line didn't do a lot to stop it. To the contrary, they were walked over for drives at a time by Miami's OL. Things weren't much better when Stephen Morris dropped back to pass, particularly when David Mackall blitzed (two sacks on the day), but the defensive backs got beaten multiple times, including the game-winner and two more times that set up TDs. They did get the two Alex Wucjiak interceptions, but allowed 280 yards and essentially all of Miami's points.
Of course, Maryland still did have a chance to win, and that deserves some measure of commendation. O'Brien never gave up and showed some nice resiliency, as did the team as a whole. And had they won, all of this would be a lot easier to swallow.
It really boils down to three things in the end: an inability to capitalize in the red zone, poor coverage, and an inability to stop the run. Only two players were truly impressive: Kenny Tate, as usual, and Kevin Dorsey. Everyone else struggled at some point or another.
There were a lot of negatives in this game. O'Brien threw his first interception outside of the Clemson game, Maryland had trouble running, and the defense looked constantly poor. In fact, even if Maryland had won, they still wouldn't have had their "trademark win".
But here's the thing, and the big measure of positivity: they didn't need to win. They still have 6 wins with a great chance to get 7 against Virginia next week. And in the big picture of the ACC race, this was unnecessary: Maryland still controls their own destiny in the ACC. If they beat UVA next week, wins over FSU and N.C. State would give them the ACC Atlantic title.
Considering how they played today, it looks like a longshot. But the potential is still there, and for now, that's good enough for me. Grades tomorrow.