COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- C.J. Brown said the Terrapins shot themselves in the foot in Saturday's depressing 20-3 loss to Syracuse at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium.
More like sixth-win challenged Maryland took a howitzer to a whole leg, coming out with very little juice against the Orange in the first and last ACC meeting of the two programs. The Terrapins (5-4 overall, 1-4 ACC) lost for the third straight time with bowl eligibility on the line and this time in front of scouts from the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the Military Bowl, this year in Annapolis, and the Advocare Bowl in Shreveport, La.
And they did it in impressively lackluster fashion, though just how fatal a wound this was, remains to be seen in the coming weeks with three more chances, beginning next Saturday at Virginia Tech.
"You don't have a shot to win when you turn the ball over four times, you have as many dropped balls and errors as we did," said Maryland coach Randy Edsall. "We had the opportunities to make the plays and we didn't make them."
Syracuse (5-4, 3-2) rammed the ball right down Maryland's throat in a game-opening, 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive, and then hung on the rest of the gloomy afternoon through six turnovers (four by the Terps), 12 Orange penalties and long stretches of uninspiring play from both squads.
"There were a lot of little things that went on that we didn't take advantage of, and that's what happens," said Maryland center Sal Conaboy, who was involved in a couple of bad exchanges with Brown among many other miscues on offense. "It was us. We didn't focus and do our job. It's hard to win games when you don't do the job up front. There are no excuses."
Maryland rushed for just 81 yards, the Terrapins' third straight game under 100 yards on the ground and the fourth in five ACC outings. That unhappy development made Maryland one dimensional and turned Syracuse's blitz-happy defense lose to harass Brown all afternoon.
"They're a strong team with a good defense and we didn't come out and execute today," said Brown. "I thought we were very prepared and confident going into the game. It's tough for me as a leader because I was one of the guys that didn't execute out there to my potential, and put our team in tough situations. That falls back on me. It's tough for me to get the guys going when I was the problem."
Brown lamented two interceptions and a fumble he lost but the quarterback, who completed his first ACC game in its entirety this season after his head and trunk injuries, still completed 21 passes in 40 attempts. Along with the picks, he had a couple more passes batted in the backfield by the blitzing Orange, was sacked three times and was the victim of several dropped passes from a wide receiving corps minus its two biggest stars, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. They were the kind of playmakers that might have made a difference on this day.
"Injuries are part of the game and we understand that; we've been through this before," said Brown, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. "Everyone has to dig down, look in the mirror and move on."
The Terrapins aren't looking for excuses but they are still searching for that elusive sixth victory and the fulfillment of some lofty preseason goals that seem to be growing more distant.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we should have won that game but the only thing we can do is come back and prepare and get a win against Virginia Tech, " said junior nose tackle Darius Kilgo. "Just the simple things, fundamentals and technique, that's where it all starts."
Edsall saw the same things and ran through a laundry list. "Hit the right hole, maintain leverage in your gap, catch the ball when it's thrown to you and you have the opportunity to catch it. Go up and knock the ball down if you can't catch it so the other guy can't catch it, as well. Just all those things. Just basically execute your assignment. Tackle, wrap guys up, don't just try to body-block somebody. It's very simple."
For most of Saturday, those things came very hard for a black-clad Terrapin team that couldn't get going until they produced too little, too late.
After finally getting on the scoreboard late in the third quarter, the Terrapins then came up with a key stop when linebacker L.A. Goree stuffed burly Jerome Smith a yard short of a first down to force a punt.
Pinned back at their own 17-yard line, the Terrapin offense still couldn't shift into gear. Brown's pass to a stumbling Albert Reid lost three yards. Reid gained two yards up the middle. On third down, Brown rolled out of the pocket and under duress overthrew Nigel King deep down the middle.
When the Orange got the ball back, they squeezed the last hope out of Maryland and a dwindling crowd that started at 37,213. On a key third down, quarterback Terrel Hunt dashed 29 yards on a draw, and two plays later, Smith roared up the middle 21 yards for a decisive score to make it 20-3, with 10:33 to play.
Brown was a battering ram all day with 118 yards and two scores on 28 carries, part of 242 yards on the ground for the Orange, the fourth time in five ACC contest the Terps have yielded more than 180 yards rushing, and the third time in the last four, foes have amassed over 230 yards by land.
Brown was sacked on the first play of the ensuing Maryland possession but then hit Amba Etta-Tawo down the middle for 26 yards. The drive petered out, though, Brown throwing high and incomplete to tight end Dave Stinebaugh on fourth down. Syracuse took over at the 39 with 8:51 remaining.
The Terrapins would get the ball back twice more and tack on some offensive yards but never seriously threaten to score. Maryland finished with 292 total yards to Syracuse's 382.
"(Syracuse) did not do anything different than we prepared for," said Edsall. "They had one new blitz that they came in with. We were not able to block some of the calls that we needed to make."
Maryland got the ball to start the second half and Brown had the Terrapins on the move, trailing just 10-0. His quick lateral to Lavern Jacobs netted 11 yards and then he rolled out and hit Etta-Tawo for 19 more. Two plays later though, he seemed surprised on a shotgun snap and the ball bounced free before Syracuse linebacker Cameron Lynch scooped it up and rambled 18 yards to the Maryland 40.
"The biggest thing was we kept shooting ourselves in the foot," said Brown. "We kept moving the ball, having good drives and getting down there and not coming away with points."
Syracuse did just enough offensively. Smith went 11 yards on the first play after the fumble and then Hunt hit Ashton Broyld for 11 more. The Terps defense came up with a stop when defensive tackle Andre Monroe and linebacker Marcus Whitfield stopped Smith for no gain on a third down. Ryan Norton came on to boot a 30-yard field goal at 10:03 to make it 13-0.
Brandon Ross, who had 54 yards on 15 carries, ran 11 yards for a first down to start the ensuing Maryland drive but then the Terps came up short, Ross getting one yard on a key third-and-three. Punter Nathan Renfro shanked a 23-yard punt but Maryland's defense forced a three-and-out, cornerback Isaac Goins tackling Smith for just a two-yard gain in the open field.
The Terrapins finally got a break when the Orange interfered with Will Likely's fair catch of Riley Nixon's 39-yard punt, and the 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the Maryland 47. Brown looked deep to Etta-Tawo and the receiver drew a 15-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Julian Whigham.
Two plays later, defensive end Robert Welsh was flagged for a facemask penalty on Brown, 15 yards to the Syracuse 22. Brown hit Jacobs for seven yards to the 10-yard line to convert a third-and-five.
Two plays later, Brown fumbled the ball back to Syracuse but defensive Micah Robinson was offside and the Terrapins got the ball back. Brown hit Jacobs for three yards on a screen, then Ross ran for two. On third down, Lynch blitzed up the middle untouched and deflected Brown's pass.
Craddock came on to put Maryland on the board with a 23-yard field goal at 1:10 of the third quarter, to cut the deficit to 13-3.
The Terrapins had trailed 10-0 at the end of a slow first half, amassing just 141 total yards and turning the ball over three times. Syracuse wasn't a lot better except at the very start of the game.
The Orange beat the pulp out of Maryland's banged-up defense on a brutal, 16-play, 80-yard drive to open the contest. Syracuse ran the ball 10 times, including twice by Smith on fourth down, the second a one-yard thrust up the middle for the score at 7:06 for a 7-0 lead.
The Terrapins, minus linebackers Goree (injured back, though he would play in the second half), Cole Farrand (concussion), and safety Anthony Nixon (toe), were their own worst enemy with some shoddy tackling on the opening march.
The 6-0, 226-pound tailback Smith had eight carries for 25 yards, including both fourth down conversions. It's not a good sign when Maryland's leading tackler was safety Sean Davis, who had 11 tackles, eight solo.
The Terrapins moved briskly to start the game, too, Ross ripping off a 15-yard run through the left side where freshman left tackle Moise Larose was starting his first game in place of Mike Madaras who left the program during the bye week.
"Well, Moise is the best tackle we have, so he was out there," said Edsall. "He's gonna get better. He's a guy that likes to play, that wants to play. It's important to him. I know there are some things he would like to do better and he'll get better."
Brown found fullback Kenneth Goins for seven yards but then his pass to Jacobs lost two yards, and on third down linebacker Dyshawn Davis sacked Brown for a 13-yard loss.
Jacobs, who had turned in big plays in the last two games was limited to just 25 yards on six catches. Etta-Tawo finished with a career high 109 yards on his six catches but he also had a couple of costly drops.
The Terrapins fared better when they got the ball back. Brown took them 55 yards to set up a 42-yard field goal by Craddock on their second possession. Brown hit King for11 yards and then 26, on back-to-back plays. Etta-Tawo also turned in a big play, with a tough 10-yard catch on the sideline as he was being hit, a catch that converted a third-and-seven at the 25-yard line. The play before, a wide-open Etta-Tawo dropped a Brown pass that hit him in the chest.
A third-down blitz forced Brown to loft a pass to King that cornerback Whigham batted away. Craddock missed the field goal badly, pulling the ball to the right, just another misstep in a day full of them. It was just Craddock's second miss inside 50 yards in 16 attempts this season.
Midway through the second quarter, Maryland mounted another march after defensive end Andre Monroe and linebacker Alex Twine stripped Smith and Twine recovered the ball at the Terp 32. Brown hit King for 14 yards and then Reid, just in the game, gained five yards on a run and got 15 more on a Syracuse facemask penalty. But when the Terrapins reached the 28-yard line, Brown tried to hit Etta-Tawo down the middle on a third-and-10, and safety Durell Eskridge diagnosed the play and intercepted for a touchback at 6:07.
Hunt checked down to fullback Clay Cleveland for a 19-yard gain and then wide receiver Jarrod West made a spectacular 33-yard reception on the sideline to move the Orange to the Maryland 41. On the next play, Likely jumped a slant route and intercepted Hunt's pass at the 31.
Hunt finished 15-of-24 for 140 yards and an interception Brisly Estime had four catches for 40 yards to lead the Orange, who have three of their last four.
Brown completed two short passes and then picked his way up the middle on a 12-yard run. Brown hit Jacobs for eight and Ross ran five yards. Two plays later, though, Brown threw behind Stinebaugh and Whigham intercepted at the Syracuse 28.
The Terrapin defense forced a punt but after two incomplete passes, Brown scrambled to avoid pressure, and found Etta-Tawo down the middle for an 18-yard gain. But Etta-Tawo juggled the ball, and just as he got possession, a hit by safety Darius Kelly dislodged the ball and middle linebacker Marcus Spruill recovered at the 38-yard line.
Smith ran five times to move the ball the 17, and after two Maryland timeouts to ice the kicker, Norton, Norton connected on a 34-yard field goal to make it 10-0, three seconds before the half.
The Terrapins held Syracuse to just six points following those four turnovers, and the defense registered four tackles for loss, one apiece by Twine, Monroe, Whitfield and Matt Robinson. Redshirt freshman linebacker Abner Logan had 10 tackles, his second straight double-digit effort in that department.
Freshman cornerback Likely took exception to the thought that the Terrapins were flat. And that the sixth win was getting harder to attain.
"I wouldn't say we weren't emotional," he said. "We have to come tomorrow and get better. We're going to work hard and we're not worried about the sixth win because a win is a win. We're going to get that win. That's a fact."
Terps Have Little Juice Against the Orange
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