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Maryland football: Stock report after season-closing loss to Rutgers

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The Maryland football team lost a 25-point lead, and the game, against Rutgers on Saturday. Individual evaluations from the meltdown.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The best thing that could be said about this year's Maryland football team is that it hadn't lost any games it should have won – that no inferior opposition or badly beaten teams had been able to take a win from these Terps. Maryland's four losses entering Saturday were often ugly, but they were at least explainable. A dominant opponent here, a hard-fought effort there, and Maryland hadn't had an inexplicable meltdown.

Until Saturday.

What happened on Saturday, when Maryland blew a 25-point lead to lose to a two-conference-win Rutgers team, was an embarrassment that will surely haunt the 22-man senior class that played its last game at Byrd Stadium. It will also cost Maryland in postseason placement, where the Terps had a strong shot at an upper-echelon bowl appearance but let it all slip away over a period of 30 minutes. This was a collaborative failure, but some individual efforts are worth parsing.

Stock up:

Blue-chipper: Deon Long

Solid buy: Brandon Ross

For every offensive appearance in this report, the key caveat is that Maryland's offense was superb in the first half and putrid in the second. Long had one catch for no yardage in the final two quarters, but he was a big part of Maryland's 333-yard offensive outburst in the first two. He finished with 7 catches for 65 yards and provided a nice outlet for quarterback C.J. Brown, at least until he didn't. But by that time, the entire offense had dissipated, and Maryland's lead had, too. It was a brutal collapse, but Long stood out beforehand.

Ross had become something of a forgotten man in the offense, losing his starting job the past two games to Wes Brown. He didn't start on Saturday, but Ross had several chunk carries, and he wound up with 108 yards on just 10 runs, with two touchdowns. Did Ross get stacked up for nothing with the game in the balance on a late fourth down? Yes, but that failure was circumstantial; Maryland's offense had totally faltered by then, and Rutgers was able to key on an obvious dive play. Whenever Maryland plays in an underwhelming bowl game, Ross should have a more prominent role.

Stock holding:

Blue-chipper: Brad Craddock

Penny stock: C.J. Brown

Craddock missed a 54-yard field goal that would have tied the game late in the fourth quarter. Even if he hadn't also made a 50-yarder minutes earlier, that miss would have done nothing to diminish his stock. Craddock hits 40-plus yard field goals at a virtually unheard-of rate for a college kicker, as his late miss was his first in 12 such tries this year. Craddock will probably replay that kick in his head for a long time – and it'll pain him that he had the distance on it to make it – but one miss from 54 yards doesn't change Craddock's status as one of the country's great kickers. It's a shame that Craddock lost his perfect record on the season, but there's no reason to worry about any long-term fallout.

Brown's stock holds in a balancing act, because his first half was tremendous and his second was the opposite. Brown threw for 165 yards in the first half on 10-of-13 passing for two touchdowns, then threw for 30 yards on 4-of-11 to finish. So he was great, then he was terrible. Given where Brown's been this year, that qualifies him for a hold here. If nothing else, he'll absolutely be under center for Maryland's bowl game. But closing his home career with 30 passing yards and three points in the second half will be a black eye.

Stock down:

Blue-chipper: Will Likely

Solid buy: Sean Davis

Polarizing investment: Randy Edsall

Likely is a wonderful player, but he was victimized on four or five significant Rutgers pass plays, including two touchdowns and two long first downs. He had a ridiculous interception nullified by an offsides call (which, in a twist, allowed Rutgers seven points that could have decided the game), and one game doesn't do anything at all to weaken his playmaking chops. But Likely was highly vulnerable against Rutgers receivers Leonte Carroo and Andre Patton, who worked on and off against him and both eclipsed 100 yards receiving. Likely is a generationally talented ballhawk, but he's beatable in coverage against the right receiver – and Rutgers found some cracks against him Saturday.

On one of those aforementioned touchdowns, Likely wasn't at fault so much as Davis was, when they lost Patton together in the back of the end zone for a touchdown late in the first half. Davis had one great play in the game, when he strip-sacked Gary Nova to force Maryland's first turnover on defense. But he was flagged twice on special teams – a recurring problem for him – and was party to a lot of the passing damage (347 yards, four touchdowns) Nova did against Maryland.

Edsall, Maryland's at-times embattled head coach, will rarely be more criticized than now. When a team suffers a loss as humiliating as this one, coaches catch heat, and some of his will be deserved. (Some of it won't, like ripping him for opting to have Craddock try the long field goal he missed on fourth down and long). But Edsall's team was clearly unfocused in the second half, and Edsall managed the clock badly in the game's waning moments. He needed to take a timeout to decide to send out Craddock for that field goal, which Maryland could have used afterward. He didn't challenge an incompletion call on a third-down pass from Brown to Malcolm Culmer, even though Culmer appeared to catch the ball cleanly near Craddock's field goal range. And though coordinator Mike Locskley, not Edsall, calls the plays, Maryland's choices of a wideout sweep and a shotgun dive play, needing one yard on third and fourth down on the final drive, were curious. Ultimately, Maryland led by 25 points against a bastion of mediocrity and lost at home.

The Terps were a half-hour from a pretty serious bowl game, and now they aren't. Much of that has to fall on the head coach, no matter how much else went horribly awry.