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Struggling Maryland Sees Bowl Hopes Dashed by Virginia in 31-13 Loss

Michael Rocco passed for a career-high 307 yards, Maryland gave up 527 yards of total offense, and the Terrapins' clinched bowl ineligibility on their senior day in a 31-13 loss to their border rival Virginia Cavaliers. Those same Cavaliers, by the way, stand at 6-3, are now bowl-eligible, and just won their first game in November since 2007. Maryland, meanwhile, drops to 2-7 in Randy Edsall's inaugural season.

It was one of Maryland's poorer performances on the season, and that's saying something. Virginia was able to do more or less whatever they wanted offensively - as indicated by the absurd 500+ yards allowed - and Maryland's offense was inconsistent and unproductive, largely as a result of the continuing quarterback controversy.

It was Danny O'Brien who got the start this week, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, he didn't hold onto the job, sharing time with C.J. Brown. The two combined to go 20/43 with three interceptions, and Maryland's quest to find consistency at quarterback will continue for at least another week.

And discontent in Maryland's fanbase will continue to fester, as well, and is likely growing larger each and every week. Randy Edsall's performance so far has been woeful, and his abrasive personality and media strategy has turned off even more fans. There were reports of "Fire Edsall" chants throughout the stadium, especially early on, and I expect that movement to get bigger and bigger as the season goes on.

This week's start was even more foreboding than last week's, with Virginia's Khalek Shepard returning the opening kickoff 65 yards into Maryland territory. Running back Perry Jones took the ensuing snap - the first of the game - 47 yards off-tackle for a touchdown, giving Virginia a 7-0 lead just 20 seconds into the game. Maryland's answer: a three-and-out that included a drop of a sure touchdown.

But things did tighten up, with Maryland stopping Virginia's offense on their next five drives. The Terps' O, meanwhile, found its rhythm in the second quarter, with O'Brien leading an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a 24-yard Nick Ferrara field goal. C.J. Brown came in at quarterback for the Terrapins' next drive as a change-of-pace, and marched Maryland down for a touchdown in three plays, capping the quick-strike possession with a 13-yard pass to Devonte Campbell to take a 10-7 lead.

O'Brien would lead another field goal drive, with the offense stalling despite having three cracks from Virginia's goal-line. That was perhaps a turning point in the game, as Maryland's offense failed to capitalize on a touchdown opportunity and wouldn't score again. The Cavaliers retook the lead on their next drive, with Michael Rocco finding Kevin Parks for a 35-yard touchdown, and took a 14-13 lead into the half. 

The start of the second half went no more smoothly than the first. The Terps went three-and-out, and Virginia answered with a steady 13-play, 95-yard touchdown march, capped off by a 1-yard TD run from Jones on fourth-and-goal. O'Brien threw an interception on Maryland's next drive, and Virginia had no problem finding the end zone with a 17-yard Max Millien touchdown reception.

Brown re-entered the game at that point, and had no better luck, going three-and-out himself. Virginia again marched down the field, added another three points on a Robert Randolph field goal, took a 31-13 lead, and just about sealed the game. 

Maryland played yet another poor game, both looking overmatched in terms of talent as well as failing to execute what they could. Past Brown's exciting touchdown drive, not much went right. The gameplan didn't make sense. The receivers continued to have a serious problem with drops. The defense, despite a strong stretch in the middle of the game, again tired and found itself dominated.

In all, it's the same Maryland team you know and by which you're consistently frustrated. For those of who, like me, who thought that Maryland would have to put together an inspired, consistent performance at some point: no, no they do not have to. The odds are overwhelmingly in favor of this team going 2-10, as sad as that fact is right now.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the game was the quarterback situation. Danny O'Brien started and looked good early, but the offense stalled under him and he was benched after throwing a bad interception in the third quarter. Brown had success as a change-of-pace, but looked no more adept as the main guy, also throwing a pick before being - you guessed it - benched in favor of O'Brien.

I like a two-QB system, but this isn't a two-QB system. This is Randy Edsall having no leash for either option and pulling them "permanently" whenever they make a mistake. Neither one is being used a change-of-pace, and they're constantly looking over their shoulder. It's a terrible system that relies on negative reinforcement, and it's one of the most absurd things I've seen in college football.

I'll finish it with this: I know I've said Edsall has at least three years in charge of the program and likely four, and that's still true just based on money. But the more games like this - home rivalry games on senior day and the team just lays an egg - the more danger he's in. If he finishes 2-10 with three more games like this, there will be not only a sizable section of the fanbase that wants him out, but a number of large donors will be fed up as well. There hasn't been a public word said against him, but donors are the biggest fans there are: if you're upset, imagine them. And if donors run dry or will put up money to buy him out, there are going to be some serious discussions. I don't know if Maryland can do anything, but I'm guessing that they'll consider trying.

I'm reminded of what several people said after Mike Locksley got fired at New Mexico: if, after one year, it's clear that the guy can't do the job, you might as well get it over with now to minimize the damage done to the program instead of stringing it out. And unless Edsall brings in a significant recruiting class - one that includes some combination Stefon Diggs, Ronald Darby, Dvario Montgomery, and Noah Spence - I think it's clear that he can't do the job as Maryland wants to do it. Even coaches who inherited terrible situations, like Gary Pinkel, Jim Grobe, Art Briles, Paul Rhoads, and even Mike London across the sideline, have avoided the ignominy of a two-win season.

We'll have more tomorrow, whether or not you want to read it. Exit question: LSU or Alabama in tonight's Super Bowl?