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Maryland football closed a chaotic season on a quiet note vs. Penn State

The Terps were up-and-down all year, but wrapped up the season with a 35-point loss.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football’s season is over, finishing 5-7 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play after a 38-3 loss to Penn State on Saturday. The Terps will miss the postseason for the second straight year, falling a win short of bowl eligibility.

In the finale, the Terps surrendered two first-quarter touchdowns and went into halftime facing a 17-3 deficit. Penn State added a score immediately after Tre Watson was ejected for targeting and Maryland couldn’t respond. Maryland’s only promising drive of the second half ended in a missed field goal from Joseph Petrino, and Penn State scored twice more in the fourth quarter from there.

The Terps were outgained 565 yards to 259, despite a relatively similar time of possession (Maryland held the ball for 32:48) and number of plays (68-59, Penn State). With the season over, it’s time for a quick look at what happened against the Nittany Lions before starting to look ahead.

The rushing game went quiet at the worst possible time.

Maryland’s offense had been inconsistent all season, especially against better defenses, but had put up 32 and 51 points in the last two weeks. The running game had been the igniter, powered by back-to-back 200-plus-yard rushing performances by Anthony McFarland. Penn State studied the tape well, and was in the backfield more often than not on runs.

The Terps finished with just 74 rushing yards and were tackled for a loss 15 times, losing 40 yards. McFarland would leave after an undisclosed injury in the second half with six carries for 12 yards. The plays that were home runs against Ohio State, were absolute duds against the Nittany Lions. To his credit, Tyrrell Pigrome was a relatively effective passer, despite constantly facing collapsing pockets and getting sacked five times. Pigrome would finish the day 14-of-23 for 185 yards, but without the run game as support, Maryland’s offense fell mostly flat.

It’s a disappointing end to an incredibly challenging season.

Maryland has been playing this entire season for Jordan McNair, who died after suffering a heatstroke at the first organized workout of the summer. Since then, the team has stayed together in the midst of multiple reports painting the program in a disparaging light, two investigations—one into McNair’s final workout and another into the team culture—its head coach being reinstated only to be fired a day later, and more. The entire time, the players have continued to keep the focus on their fallen teammate.

The Terps won’t get to a bowl this season, but came away with a win over Texas, again, and were a play away from shocking Ohio State. There were disappointments, like losses to Temple and Indiana, and some even quieter offensive performances than Saturday. But this team had multiple excuses for giving up this season, and it never did. That level of resilience and heart should mean something. The players’ commitment to their teammate’s legacy should mean something. Maryland made sure Jordan McNair was not forgotten during the course of this season.

Now, there’s attrition and a coaching search to worry about.

There’s generally some player turnover whenever a coach leaves a job, but considering the situation, it will be interesting to monitor how many active players will look to transfer. Defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight has already announced his intentions to transfer and Marcus Lewis has left the program as well. It’s fair to expect more to follow. How many, though, is yet to be seen, and how bare Maryland’s cupboard is afterwards will determine just how far the program will be set back.

The Terps have already seen four 2019 recruits decommit, and without an official head coach have secured a commitment from three-star wide receiver Dino Tomlin. The class currently stands at just eight recruits, and Maryland will graduate 13 senior starters, including all but one member of its starting offensive line.

However, the bulk of the rebuilding will fall to whoever is named head coach this offseason. Matt Canada will close with a 5-7 record as interim coach, but kept the team playing for each other and has had multiple players speak to how skilled a communicator he is. There’s also been a strong push for Maryland’s last interim head coach and current Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. The school has already hired a search firm and may want to go with a more experienced option, but there’s no current timetable on when a decision will be made.