The Maryland Terrapins gave the Connecticut Huskies all they had in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, their 14 points weren’t enough to complete a frantic comeback, as the Terrapins fell 24-21 to the Huskies at Byrd Stadium against coach Randy Edsall’s former team.
Numerous mental errors throughout the game hurt the Terrapins, as good field position was consistently squandered thanks in large part to penalties and botched plays on key possessions. The Terrapins finished the game with five penalties, many of which stagnated an offense that could ill afford to lose precious yardage.
Neither offense was off the charts; with both teams finishing up under 250 yards (Maryland had 205 against Connecticut’s 223). Freshman quarterback Perry Hills, faced with the most pressure by a defensive line during his short career, failed to complete 50% or better of his passes for the first time. He ended up with 109 yards on 10-of-24 passing, throwing one touchdown and another interception.
The turnover issues for the Terrapins didn’t end this game, either. On the very first play for the Terrapins offense in the game, Hills threw a quick slant that was intercepted by a Connecticut defender who read the route well. Throughout the game, Hills was forced to think quickly as opposing defenders swarmed in on him, and more often than not failed to make the right decision.
On another possession, Hills was popped hard by a Connecticut defensive end, which resulted in a fumble that the Terrapins failed to recover. All game long, Hills would continue to take hard hits, whether rushing the ball up the middle or back in the pocket. Speaking of rushing, Hills ended up being the Terrapins leading rusher for the game, but not even close to their most effective. He finished with 18 carries and only 10 yards, despite rushing for a 12 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that cut the deficit to 3.
Connecticut was great on defense, but the offense cannot be given the same amount of praise. The Huskies alternated two quarterbacks, hoping to mitigate the need to pass often in order to get scores. Chandler Whitmer, who went into the game with no touchdowns and five interceptions, completed key third downs for the Huskies offense that could not do anything on the ground against a solid Maryland defensive front. Whitmer finished the game going 10-16 for only 68 yards. The yards that he did get, however, helped decide the game as he converted four of nine third down situations to keep the offense on the field.
Whitmer subbed out for McCummings, who only threw once but ran the option very effectively to establish a run game, ending up with 44 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, including a 21 yard scoot to the outside for a touchdown. He combined with sophomore tailback Lyle McCombs, who also had a nice touchdown run after breaking a few tackles, to lead the Huskies to 138 yards on the ground. It was far from inspiring, but it did win the Huskies the game.
The Terrapins offense got going due in large part to two players: freshman running back Wes Brown and freshman do-it-all wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The two of them stole the show, with Brown offering electrifying runs after replacing sophomore Justus Pickett early and Diggs returning punts well past their intended destination. Diggs finished with 96 yards on five punt returns, and in doing so now has more return yards than the entire team did last year. He also caught three passes for 58 yards and added in a touchdown score late in the fourth on a bobbled pass.
Meanwhile, Brown ended up with 74 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown run. Brown was the main reason that the Terrapins started moving the chains, and helped open up the field significantly. Brown didn’t have any fumbles this game, after having two last week against Temple. Unfortunately, the Terrapins failed to utilize him early and often, and Hills missed a wide open Brown on the last play of the game; instead, he opted for a hail mary to the end zone that was nearly picked off.
The Terrapins will have little time to mourn this loss, as they head to Morgantown, West Virginia to take on Geno Smith and the Mountaineers. They are going to have to shake this one off early if they intend on winning what is almost assured to be a daunting task.