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Maryland football needs to have a short memory to keep its season’s hopes alive

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The Terps suffered their first loss last Friday and they can’t let it derail their season.

Iowa v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

If Maryland football wants to change the surrounding culture around its program, it will certainly need to brush off its first loss of the season which came against then-No. 5 Iowa in a 51-14 rout on Oct. 1.

All you need to look at is Maryland’s past track record with responding to major losses during the season.

Dating back to 2015, with 2020 as an exception being an odd year regarding the scheduling and a five-game shortened season, the Terps simply do not respond well to blowout losses. Not only do they not offer positive responses to these lopsided defeats, but the program typically falters the rest of the way for the remainder of the regular season, something it can’t afford to do after capturing its best start in five years. Let’s take a look at this with a year-by-year approach to show an explanation of this trend.

Maryland kicked off the 2015 season with a 2-1 record. It then lost the fourth game of the season to West Virginia in a major defeat, falling 45-6. Maryland then went 1-7 after that game and finished the season 3-9.

In 2016, similar to this year, Maryland started off the season a perfect 4-0. It didn’t take too long for the season to fall apart, though, as the Terps then lost their undefeated record in a game to Penn State, in which they lost by 24 points. After that contest, Maryland went 2-6 the rest of the way to yet another sub-.500 season.

The years 2017 and 2018 were no different from seasons prior. Maryland jumped out to a quick 3-1 record four years ago, to only lose to then-No. 10 Ohio State, 62-14, which prompted another 1-6 collapse the rest of the way en route to a 4-8 record. The next season, the Terps captured four wins in their first six games but followed that record up with a 23-point shutout defeat to then-No. 19 Iowa. Maryland also finished that season with a middle-of-the-pack 5-7 record.

Two years ago, one season before COVID-19 hit, Maryland once again had another scenario where it fell off after a major loss. That season’s team started 2-1, but they lost to then-No. 12 Penn State 59-0 in College Park. The Terps followed that loss by going 1-7, concluding the 2019 season with three wins in 12 games.

Just by looking at the yearly statistics, the teams of Maryland football’s past have not been successful at responding to crushing losses. When the Terps initially get beat by a significant amount of points, it typically sets the tone for the remainder of the season.

And while the program has taken massive positive strides during the 2021 season with becoming more competitive in a super-talented Big Ten, that is now filled with four teams ranked in the most recent AP Top 25 poll, the most recent loss to No. 5 Iowa should be fairly alarming based on past trends, to say the least.

Maryland defeated the likes of West Virginia, Howard, Illinois and Kent State before scoring a season-low 14 points against one of the conference’s most feared defenses. Iowa cruised to the 37-point victory, backed by 31 consecutive points in the second quarter in which Maryland made a few critical mistakes on offense.

“We won the first quarter, 7-3, they won the third quarter, 10-7, and the fourth quarter, 7-0, the 31-point differential in the second quarter kind of tells the story,” head coach Michael Locksley said. “I think we’re a better team than what we showed on Friday night, there’s no doubt about that. We’re sitting here 4-1 after five games so I don’t think there’s a need for us to panic, I got lot of confidence in the team.”

Not only did junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa toss a season-high five interceptions en route to a season-low in passing yards, but star wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. also went down with a knee injury, that will officially keep him out for the rest of the 2021 season.

It’s going to be a tough road to recovery for a Maryland team that captured four wins in its first five games for the first time since 2016.

Despite the loss that disrupted Maryland’s momentum, Locksley reiterated that his team will need to provide a proper response with the quality of their play with one of the more difficult remaining schedules going forward.

“This is a team that I feel is still together, that plays very well together, that understands the standard that we’ve set knowing that we didn’t meet the standard on Friday night and I’m confident that we will respond the right way,” Locksley said.

The next program on the schedule for Maryland is certainly no pushover, as it is the current odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten Championship, the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Terps will take on the Buckeyes on Oct. 9 with a noon kickoff, and the team out of Columbus is starting to find its groove.

After falling to Oregon by seven in the second week of the season, Ohio State has recovered well and captured three straight wins to boast a 4-1 record, the same as their Maryland counterpart through five weeks. The Buckeyes are averaging just over 50 points in their last three games in which they have beaten Tulsa, Akron and Rutgers.

“Going onto Ohio State obviously another tremendous challenge, we’re into conference play, they’re one of the top teams in the conference year in and year out,” Locksley said. “They’ve got an explosive offense. I see a defense that has improved in the last couple of games, they got receivers that create explosive plays down the field. Their front seven on defense has done a really good job all season long and I expect it to be a tough game for us.”

Looking at how Ohio State compares to the rest of the Big Ten, it averages the most points per game in the conference (45.0) heading into its matchup against Maryland. Quarterback CJ Stroud is at the top in multiple statistical categories quarterback-wise within the Big Ten, and the Buckeyes have the third-most rushing yards per game in the conference as well.

It’s safe to say that a bounce-back is going to be a difficult task ahead for a Maryland team that is going to face a top 10 team for the second time in about two weeks.

“They do what everybody sees as a nation on TV, they play fast and play as a team,” sophomore wide receiver Rakim Jarrett said. “That’s why they’re one of the best.”

The question now becomes if Maryland can shake off its most recent defeat to then-No. 5 Iowa heading into the Horseshoe in Columbus. Maryland certainly has the talent on both sides of the ball that can compete with an elite Ohio State roster, especially on defense, and it will be a priority to stop the Buckeyes’ high-flying scoring offense as of late.

Maryland gave up 51 points to the Hawkeyes, something that it simply can’t afford against one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses.

“We just gotta come in as a defense ready to compete... we gotta be consistent to what we do and we have to continue to play our brand of football, our style of football on defense, which means keeping up with our style of play and being aggressive,” sophomore linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II said.

All eyes will be on Maryland’s response to its first loss of the season. And, in an effort to combat the program’s past of letting a season slip away after a significant loss, the man at the helm of the team has put one of his sole focuses on not letting one defeat turn into another.

“We got to put last Friday in our rearview mirror and not let it affect us moving forward and I expect us to do that and we got a great opportunity,” Locksley said.