COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- There was singing and dancing and Homecoming cheer all over. For a second.
The Terrapins had just scored to close to 31-24, and now after a perfect onside kick by the backup kicker, Sean Davis was standing in the end zone with the football. And that’s when everyone saw the flag at midfield.
An offside call on that kickoff with 2:39 left, Maryland’s 11th penalty of the day, negated the play the Terrapins had been waiting for all season.
“That’s football, it’s disappointing but it’s just one play in the game,” said Terrapin senior safety A.J. Hendy. “There were probably 80-to-100 other plays that could have probably changed the game. It’s disappointing but that didn’t lose us the game.”
But instead of at least the ball with one more shot, Homecoming 2015 went down as a 31-24 loss, the sixth in a row for Maryland (2-7, 0-5), the longest losing streak since 2012, This loss also officially knocked this team out of bowl consideration in a lost season. Say this, though, again the Terrapins were up to the challenge on the day, battling a Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) squad that has won five in a row.
“I have to start off by sayng how much I love this team that I’m coaching right now,” said interim Terps coach Mike Locksley, who dipped to 0-3. “Words can’t express how I feel about them because of the type of effort that they give.”
The effort is there but this is a team that just can’t get a break and can’t finish a game off. “Coach Locksley is saying all the time that he appreciates our effort and that we’re playing hard,” said Hendy. “But we just have to have more attention to detail and the little things that go on.”
The Terrapins had 24 points – the most the nation’s stingiest defense (11.0 allowed coming in) had allowed all year. Time and time again, it looked like the Badgers would bust out and pull away, and each time, the Turtles clawed back as a crowd of 44,678 looked on at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium.
The final Terrapin charge came after Maryland had been stymied throughout the third quarter and into the fourth. The Terrapins had just 51 yards and two first downs in the second half when Caleb Rowe got things rolling again in the final four minutes. He relieved Perry Hills and took Maryland on a 76-yard drive on his try.
With 2:39 left, he hit gimpy, but game Levern Jacobs for 27 yards and a score on a flag route and with Adam Greene’s PAT, the Terps were within a score with time to play. Greene, had replaced All-America kicker Brad Craddock in the first half, the Aussie injured on a kickoff return, his hand broken and unable to be reset at the stadium.
So Greene nailed one field goal, a couple of extra points and then hit that perfect onside kick that Davis fielded on the dead run to the bewilderment of the Badgers. But the offside, called on the backside against Jarrett Ross, negated the play. “It’s a penalty that shouldn’t happen,” said Locksley. “But you know what, I’m going to keep coaching them. It’s a learning opportunity. We had the play, it was there to be made. We have to get guys to understand the attention to detail, doing all the little things right.”
Wisconsin’s Alex Erickson recovered the re-kick, and Wisconsin ran out at the clock, though not without some drama.
On a fourth-and-one at the Maryland 35 with the clock running under 40 seconds, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave surged forward, and with a push from his linemen, bulled three yards for the final first down.
Badgers Come to Pass in Second Half
That play capped a big second half for Stave who was 12-of-16 for 168 yards and a touchdown the final 30 minutes. For the game, he was 15-of-24 for 188 yards, but Maryland’s run defense – a strength over the last few weeks – forced Wisconsin to throw.
“The first goal was to come out and stop the run because that’s what we do best,” said defensive tackle Azubuike Ukandu. “I think we did a good job of that in the first half but they made adjustments at haltime that any good team would do.”
Ukandu said the Badgers threw more on first and second down to catch Maryland off balance. Locksley said their “condensed formations” created some problems against Maryland’s man-to-man, and again a veteran Terrapin secondary was exposed in one-on-one coverage. Wisconsin had 305 total yards, 188 threw the air, and 40 rushes yielded just 117 yards.
It was a very unusual game statistically. Wisconsin’s leading rusher was linebacker Joe Schobert, who had one rush for 57 yards on a fake punt. Next was workhorse Dare Ogunbowale who had 19 carries for 47 yards.
Maryland was led by Will Likely’s 56 yards on three rushes, 43 of them coming on one play. Wes Brown had 10 carries for 34 yards, getting the bulk of the work in the backfield after Brandon Ross was benched for missing blocks on two early sacks of Hills.
Hills was 6-of-16 for 107 yards with an interception and a touchdown. Rowe took over when the Terrapins had to throw on every down. He was 7-of-18 for 97 yards, a score and another pick, which took the Terrapin interception total, which already led the nation, to 25 this season.
Maryland had more total yards – 316 to 305 – but just didn’t make enough plays, a particular frustration for Locksley. “We missed some shots. When you play the type of defense Wisconsin runs, with all the movement and run blitzes, we knew running the football was going to be tough. We were going to have to make some plays on the perimeter. (Hills) hit a couple early and we missed two or three shots.”
Still, Maryland and Wisconsin were tied 17-17 after a topsy-turvy first half, and the Badgers again had field position troubles when Natrell Jamerson fumbled the second half kickoff. Jermaine Carter, then hit Ogubowale for a 5-yard loss, and the Badgers were all the way back to their own 4-yard line. But Stave, who struggled the whole first half, hit Erickson for 18 yards and Wisconsin got another first down on a defensive holding penalty.
On a big third-and-two, Quinton Jefferson hit Alec Ingold for a two-yard loss, and forced a punt. Maryland had to punt right back, and Stave started to get things done up top. First, he hit Erickson for 20 yards, and then Jazz Peavy for 22 on a key third down. An 8-yard strike to Tony Fumagalli took the ball to the 15. Then Stave found two-way performer Tanner McEvoy for 13 yards, and on the next play, Ingold slammed in for the score to make it 24-17 at 5:17.
Ty Johnson had 15-yard run and Hills hit Malcolm Culmer for 12 and a big first down on Maryland’s next possession, but the drive petered out and the Terps punted back to the Badgers.
Wisconsin, Stave now with the hot hand, went 71 yards in seven plays. Stave hit 5-of-5 passes for 66 of the yards, the last a 6-yard strike to Ogunbowale, who was all alone in the flat in a busted Terrapin coverage. Wisconsin led 31-17 with 14:01 to play.
Hills couldn’t move Maryland and then when the Terps got the ball back, Rowe entered and fired three straight incomplete passes, leading to the final of Nicolas Pritchard’s seven punts. Maryland got the ball again, and this time after one first down, Rowe threw a horrid pass down the middle that safety McEvoy intercepted and returned 15 yards. Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone would ultimately miss a 47-yard field goal and set the stage for Rowe’s scoring drive.
“It’s disappointing to be on a losing streak like we are,” said Hendy. “But we’re going to continue to fight. We have great leadership on this team, and we’re on to Michigan State now.”
The Terrapins travel to play the No. 6 Spartans Nov, 14, another tough one in what has become a Murderer’s Row.
“We’re going to find a way to get it corrected and find a way to go to Michigan State next week and get a win,” said Locksley.
Maryland Measures Up Early
Maryland had some early advantages against Wisconsin. They got good early field position, Kenneth Goins, Jr., taking a pooch kickoff 19 yards to start the game and setting the Terrapins up at their own 47. Hills’ third down pass to Brown came up short of a first down but Pritchard pinned Wisconsin back with a 41 yard punt out of bounds at the 5-yard line. Though he averaged just 31.9 yards per punt, Pritchard put three inside the 20.
The Terrapin defense forced a three-and-out and nearly got more when defensive back Denzel Conyers stepped in front of Stave’s pass and had nothing but end zone in front of him. Conyers couldn’t hang on, though. Drew Meyer shanked his punt 24 yards out of bounds and Maryland had the ball at the Badger 32.
A pass interference call gave the Terps a first down inside the 15, and three plays later, Brown slammed into the end zone from seven yards on a good-looking draw play. Maryland led 7-0 at 9:17 of the first quarter.
The Homecoming celebration for the score was short-lived, though. Jamerson took the ensuing kickoff, found a hole to the right, burst into the open, juked past Craddock, who was injured on the play, and went 98 yards for the tying touchdown just 13 seconds later.
The Terrapins got an amazing catch from DeAndre Lane on the next possession on one of those “shots”, the junior in for injured Levern Jacobs, making a diving grab from Hills for 41 yards. Two plays later, Amba Etta-Tawo almost came up with an even better grab on what would have been a 41-yard score, but the ball was ripped from his grasp at the goal line and fell to the ground, Etta-Tawo almost re-catching it.
After a short punt, Maryland had Wisconsin stopped on downs, Jefferson making a couple of big plays. On fourth and less-than-a-yard, though, the Badgers short snapped to up-blocker Shobert, and he burst up the middle, a No. 58 suddenly running free to everyone’s surprise, likely even Shobert’s. Culmer pulled him down after that 57-yard gallop.
On the next play, the shell-shocked Terps saw Ogunbowale blow through a huge hole and go 21 yards untouched for a 14-7 lead at 3:56.
“We just have to make those plays,” said Jefferson. “The game is about inches and a few plays here and there. We were in this ball game and we just have to execute.”
Maryland wasn’t through. Brown rushed for 12 yards, and then Hills for eight. D.J. Moore dropped a potential big-gainer but Hills got two yards and a first down on the next play. Then Likely took a handoff and jetted 43 yards to the Wisconsin 14, at the end of the first quarter.
Hills was sacked by a blitzing Vince Biegel on third down for a 12-yard loss but Greene came on and banged home a 42-yard field goal, the first of his career, to make it 14-10 at 13:34 of the second quarter.
The Terrapin defense then came up big, linebacker Jalen Brooks jumping in front of a slant route, batting the ball in the air and coming up with the Terrapins’ first interception in four games. Maryland couldn’t take advantage. After three incomplete passes, Greene missed a 46-yard field goal wide right.
After a pass interference penalty on Anthony Nixon moved Wisconsin into Maryland territory, the defense again came through. Roman Braglio sacked Stave for a 2-yard loss, and then a blitzing Conyers got him for a 7-yard setback. A false start penalty moved the Badgers back more and then Jesse Aniebonam, Braglio and Yannick Ngakoue met at Stave for a 10-yard loss.
The half-sack by Ngakoue gave him 11 for the year, the first Terrapin to record that many in a season in 30 years, since Bruce Mesner had 12 in 1985. As a team, Maryland had a season-high 12 tackles for loss, the most since 13 in a 2013 game at NC State. The Terrapins registered four sacks.
When Maryland got the ball back, disaster struck. Hills, rolling left, threw back to his right and McEvoy intercepted, returning the ball 24 yards to the 12-yard line. The Terrapin defense stiffened and held Wisconsin to Gaglianone’s 28-yard field goal. The Badgers went up 17-10 at 7:05.
Locksley replaced Hills with backup Shane Cockerille, and Cockerille ran 13 yards for a first down, and moved Maryland across midfield with help from Likely and Brown, but on a third-and-one at the 32, McEvoy nailed him for a 3-yard loss on a rollout. Hills re-entered and Maryland used a timeout but didn’t get off a play, center Evan Mulrooney whistled for an illegal snap.
Pritchard’s subsequent short punt stranded Wisconsin at the 13, and Maryland’s defense got another stop. Then sophomore defensive back Josh Woods came up with a big play, partially blocking Meyer’s punt, the ball traveling just 11 yards out of bounds at the 33-yard line.
After a sack, Hills threw deep down the left sideline and Moore came up with an incredible catch inside the 5-yard line heading out of bounds. The Terrapins were lining up at the three but a review turned the play into a touchdown and tied the game 17-17, just 49 seconds before the half.
“It was a one-on-one match-up on the outside so me and Perry knew we were going to attack,” said Moore. “I felt like it was a touchdown. I just had to make a play for the team.”
Lane led Maryland receivers with three catches for 63 yards. Moore had two for 51. Levern Jacobs, who was playing on a bad knee that kept him out of the starting lineup, had two catches for 48 yards. Likely became the first Terrapin in recent memory to start on both offense and defense.
Erickson had five catches for 83 yards for the Badgers, many of them resulting in key first downs. Wisconsin had seven penalties for 54 yards but Maryland had 11 for 79.
“They made the plays and we didn’t,” said Locksley.