PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Losing to Rutgers sucks.
Losing to Rutgers with a chance to put the team one game away from bowl eligibility and bury the Scarlet Knights in the process is even worse.
“We just didn’t make enough plays to win the game and they did,” a somber DJ Durkin said after the game.
Rutgers opened the game with a 13-play, 47-yard, six-minute 15-second drive, and even though it resulted in a missed field goal, it was clear the Scarlet Knights’ running game was going to give the Terps problems.
“They obviously did a great job of scheming us up,” senior linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. “We would come out in one look to stop the run one way and they would just check the run and go the opposite way. They did a good job and we’ve just got to be better and we’ve got to get off the field.”
The Terps allowed Rutgers to convert eight of 14 third downs, including going 6-for-6 on third and short (four yards or fewer). The Scarlet Knights’ stable of running backs put up 191 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries. Starting quarterback Giovanni Rescigno added 54 yards and a touchdown on six carries of his own.
Despite all that, the Terps found themselves leading 24-17 after three quarters. Taivon Jacobs had a career day, catching seven passes for 97 yards. With just over a minute to go and the Terps trailing by seven, he caught a pass over the middle for what appeared to be a touchdown. But a flag came in late for holding on left tackle Derwin Grey, negating the score and pushing Maryland back to Rutgers’ 25-yard line. With walk-on Ryan Brand filling in for an injured Max Bortenschlager, it was too much for the Terps to overcome.
In yet another close Maryland-Rutgers game that came down to the final minutes, it’s plays like those—that shouldn’t decide the entire outcome of the game—that are unjustly magnified. Since joining the Big Ten for the 2014 football season, Maryland and Rutgers have split the four games they’ve played, with three of them being decided by a touchdown or less.
“This series has been crazy since I’ve been here; every game has been a good game,” said Carter, who’s played in all four Big Ten meetings. “It’s been fun. I just wish we could have come out on the winning side today.”
Because of their proximity to one another and their status as “newbies” in the Big Ten, Maryland and Rutgers will forever be compared, for better or worse. The goal of each program is to separate itself from the other and join the ranks of more traditional Big Ten powerhouses. But with the series now knotted at two games apiece, that has yet to happen, and doesn’t look like it’ll become reality any time soon.
Both programs have brighter futures, and will be led into the next few seasons by dynamic young coaches, each hired after the 2015 season and who both understand the importance of recruiting in building a successful program. Maryland is slightly further along in that process, as evidenced by last year’s recruiting class and on-field results, but Rutgers isn’t too far behind, and remaining competitive with Maryland only amplifies its presence.
So while it’s always disheartening to lose to Rutgers, the reality is these programs are much closer in output than many Terps fans would like to think. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is hard, and although Saturday’s loss may be hard to swallow, it’s more disappointing than it is a bad one.