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Maryland football comes up short at Rutgers, 31-24

The Terps let a second-half lead slip away.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Rutgers Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Maryland football couldn’t hang on to a second-half lead on the road Saturday, falling to Rutgers 31-24 in Piscataway.

It was a back-and-forth contest, with Rutgers taking a 10-point lead in the first half and Maryland responding with 17 unanswered points. But Rutgers tied the game at the start of the fourth quarter and took the lead with 7:30 to play. Maryland followed with near-seven-minute drive, but came up short in the final minute.

Maryland’s quarterback drama returned in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Max Bortenschlager, who was 11-of-20 for 150 yards through the air with a touchdown and a pick-six, entered the injury tent shaken up. Walk-on transfer Ryan Brand entered in his place for what turned into Maryland’s final drive of the game, leading the Terps 63 yards down the field, but the possession stalled.

The Terps overcame a slow start on the ground to record 167 rushing yards as a team. Gus Edwards led the way with 109. But it was Rutgers’ ground attack that dominated the game, as the Scarlet Knights piled up 239 yards on 46 carries. It ultimately didn’t matter that Rutgers could only total 107 passing yards.

Maryland also shot itself in the foot with 10 penalties for 65 yards, almost all in key moments. The biggest dagger was a holding call that brought back a game-tying strike in the final minute, but there was plenty of bad discipline before then.

The Terps struck first on a six-yard pass from Bortenschlager to Ty Johnson toward the end of the first quarter. The score was set up by Taivon Jacobs’ 43-yard catch-and-run, which brought Maryland inside the 5.

Rutgers responded on the following drive, knotting the score at 7-7. A 35-yard completion on the last play of the first quarter put the Scarlet Knights in good field position, and quarterback Giovanni Rescigno punched it in on an option keeper from nine yards out. Rutgers took advantage of good field position on its next possession, starting at Maryland’s 49 and knocking in a 50-yard field goal (the program’s first since 2012) to take a 10-7 lead.

Things took an even worse turn for the Terps a few minutes later. Bortenschlager tried to force a third-down pass into heavy coverage, and Rutgers’ Kiy Hester picked it off with nothing but turf in front of him. He scampered 52 yards to the house, making it 17-7. It was Bortenschlager’s third straight game with a pick-six.

Maryland got seven of those points back before halftime, as a nine-play, 76-yard drive culminated in a two-yard Lorenzo Harrison touchdown run. The score came one play after the Terps caught a break on a pass interference call in the end zone. Rutgers moved the ball in the half’s last 1:13, but the 17-14 score held at halftime.

It took less than three minutes for Maryland to pick up a second-half lead. Jake Funk’s 53-yard run was the game-changer, and Ty Johnson’s four-yard run put the Terps back in front. Maryland added to the lead when a muffed punt and DJ Turner recovery led to a 30-yard Henry Darmstadter field goal.

Rutgers equalized again on the first play of the fourth quarter, a Robert Martin 10-yard rushing touchdown. That play brought the Scarlet Knights above 200 rushing yards for the day. On the next drive, they kept pounding it, marching 65 yards in 11 plays to take a 31-24 lead on Rescigno’s 23-yard pass to Edwards.

Maryland’s ensuing possession started with 7:30 on the clock and went all the way to the final minute. Brand went 8-12 and the Terps had multiple game-saving conversions, but it wasn’t enough. A game-tying Taivon Jacobs touchdown was nullified by a holding call, and Maryland couldn’t recover.

The Terps will host Michigan on Nov. 11, although that game seems a little less meaningful now.

Three things to know

1. Maryland’s run defense gave the game away. Entering Saturday, Maryland had allowed over 200 rush yards in all four losses and held its opponents under 100 in all four wins. Rutgers tallied 239 on Saturday, and the Terps lost. Three different Scarlet Knights reached the 50-yard thresehold, and Edwards had his first 100-yard performance in a Rutgers uniform.

2. The football team couldn’t avenge the wrestlers. Earlier in the afternoon, No. 12 Rutgers bested Maryland on the mats, 27-9. That was a largely expected result, while the football team was favored by three points. It’s unclear if these results would have differed at all in Yankee Stadium, but the Scarlet Kights will have no regrets about moving the doubleheader.

3. The Terps have a losing record again. A Homecoming win against Indiana moved Maryland to 4-4 and snapped a three-game losing streak. As recently as Saturday morning, most Terps fans were thinking about the team’s chances of becoming bowl-eligible. Those thoughts have all but evaporated now. Maryland’s last three games are against Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State; at this point, coming away with two more wins seems virtually impossible.