Maryland hosted No. 22 Michigan on Saturday. It did not go well. The Wolverines were 15-point favorites, but Maryland's defense held the fort long enough that the game had the illusion of competitiveness into the third quarter. Still, Maryland's offense was garish, averaging a worst-in-years 1.7 yards per play. If you can't move the ball, you can't score, and Maryland couldn't move the ball. That meant a heightened burden on Maryland's upstart defense, and the dam eventually broke, because dams usually break when Jim Harbaugh and Michigan game-plan to break them.
Good luck winning when something like this happens against a top-25 team.
Maryland has run 3 plays on nine of its last 11 drives. Here is the #Terps' drive chart for today: pic.twitter.com/aK8f7zwiQj— Ryan Baillargeon (@RyanBaillargeon) October 3, 2015.
Here's some of what was good and a lot of what wasn't. As always, these lists are non-exhaustive:
Jermaine Carter, linebacker
Carter is the anchor of Maryland's defense, the lone inside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme that requires a good one. Carter's only started five games, but it's clear he's the least of Maryland's problems. He was important in Maryland's first-half stifling of Michigan's offense and finished with eight tackles, adding to a team-leading 30 he already had. Outside backer Jefferson Ashiru is now gone for the year with an ankle injury, and Carter isn't becoming any less important anytime soon.
Quinton Jefferson, defensive lineman
Jefferson had his first career interception, which was fun. He's seamlessly transitioned this year between defensive end and tackle, and he picked up his fourth (and a half sack) of the season. As a redshirt junior, Jefferson has clearly developed into one of Maryland's most reliable players.
Maryland's events staff.
Plaudits to the hundreds of Maryland staff – everyone from media relations to concessions workers to ushers to scoreboard operators – who adjusted and put on a safe, reasonably quick day at Byrd Stadium. This weekend had the potential to be a logistical and legal nightmare, and Maryland pulled it off really well. We spend a lot of time talking about Maryland's coaches and athletic director, but there are lot of people that have to do their jobs well for football games to work. On short notice, they did a fine job, and that's worth thinking about.
We haven't seen much from Joaquin yet, at least not here. Hopefully he doesn't damage too much and can be shifted to "stock down" for being overrated. We're in a holding pattern for now.
Maryland moved to 0-11 against ranked teams under Edsall's leadership. That's bad, but what's even worse is the trend of total haplessness his teams have shown in anything resembling a big game. Maryland hasn't competed with a non-terrible FBS team in four tries this season (No, South Florida is not better than terrible.), and the Terps have been outscored 73-6 in their last two games. Player execution is responsible for much of that, but Edsall picks the players and is the person paid to not have losses like this happen, ideally ever but certainly not weekly. (Edsall's decision to punt twice while trailing 28-0 in the fourth quarter – including on a 4th-and-1! – is its own uniquely absurd matter.)
Locksley is a smarter football man than me, and there's no sense in ignoring that players at both the collegiate and high school levels revere him. He's done some very important things for Maryland's program, and he's likely to do more of them in the future. But 105 yards of total offense are 105 yards of total offense, and six points in two games are six points in two games. Even if the Terrapins weren't playing back-to-back elite defenses (they were) or working in freshmen all over the field (they are), that wouldn't be nearly good enough. Next comes Ohio State, which has five or six NFL players on its No. 6-ranked defense. It's on Locksley to somehow find room for improvement in a brutal stretch of scheduling.
Edsall strongly intimated after the game that Maryland would bench Rowe next week, although he didn't say for whom and Rowe said minutes later he hadn't been told of any change. It probably doesn't matter which Maryland quarterback starts against the all-world Buckeyes, but Maryland has to find stability somewhere. Rowe was an untenable 8 of 27 with three interceptions, bringing his total up to an FBS-leading 12, even though he's started just three games. If Rowe doesn't get better – or if Daxx Garman or Perry Hills can't adequately replace him – Maryland isn't finishing better than 4-8.
Maryland, in general
This is a down, down time. In my four years closely following the program, it's never felt quite like this. The 2015 season was always supposed to be a bit of a bridge, but performances like the last two weeks' can burn bridges. Maryland has a lot of wonderfully engaging, happy, go-lucky kids on its football team. I've never seen any of them quite as dejected as after this game, owing not just to the result but to the defense's effort that meant it didn't have to happen this way. There is a light at the end of the tunnel here, no doubt, but it's not immediately visible.