COLLEGE PARK, Md. – After an up and down career, heck, even an up and down season, Brandon Ross said he wanted to “go out strong” in his final home game.
Well, the fourth best rushing day in Maryland history would have to qualify. Ross rushed for 250 yards on 19 carries and had three scores but it wasn’t enough to help Maryland hang on to an 18-point lead and snap a now-eight game losing streak.
The Terrapins fell 47-28 to Indiana Nov. 21 at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium, and that’s not the only thing they lost. With an announcement just before the game that starting quarterback Perry Hills had mononucleosis, and then the loss of Caleb Rowe during the game to a head injury, Maryland may close out the season at Rutgers Nov. 28 with quarterback-turned-fullback-turned-quarterback Shane Cockerille at the helm.
Cockerille played the entire second half Nov. 21, and while Maryland got one score on a long Ross run, the offense struggled, as did the defense. And the special teams.
“Our team is going to continue to fight,” said interim Terps coach Mike Locksley. “We talked about it again at the end of the game today. We’ve got one game left. We’re going to finish it the right way, the way it should be finished.”
The home finale wasn’t what the Terrapins (2-9, 0-7) had wanted. “It is sad,” said Ross, one of 15 seniors. “A lot of the underclassmen were teary-eyed. They really wanted to get a win for the seniors going out. A lot of people are kind of upset but we’ve still got one game left and a great opportunity to get a win.”
The eighth consecutive loss equaled the eight straight defeats Randy Edsall’s first season in 2011. Maryland faces the possibility of a third 10-loss season in the last six years with a loss at Rutgers.
Rowe, who was knocked out late in the first half by safety Will Dawkins, will undergo concussion protocol this week but Locksley may be down to Cockerille, who got a lot of work this week with Hills out. “We’re not going to focus on who’s hurt or not,” Locksley said. “Whoever is available to play, as a coaching staff and a program, we’ll get them ready to play and show up at Rutgers next week and give it a good fight.”
Indiana (5-6, 1-6) had some adversity, too. The Hoosiers came in with six straight losses and had played gamely last week at Michigan before falling 48-41 in overtime despite 238 yards on the ground from Jordan Howard. Howard was knocked out of this game on the first drive with an apparent knee injury, and Indiana trailed 21-3 in the first half.
Backup Devine Redding had 130 yards on 24 carries, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld really had a day, 22-of-35 for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Simmie Cobbs, who the Terp secondary made look like Jerry Rice, finished with nine catches for 192 yards.
“They made plays in the passing game in the second half,” said Locksley. “They made a few big throws and worked themselves back into the game…The biggest thing was the defense gave up some plays they don’t normally give up. They got back into it very quickly….We didn’t get as much pressure as we have in the past two or three weeks.”
Maryland had just one sack of Sudfeld, just the second time all season the Terrapin defense has registered that few.
“It was just poor execution on our part and we just have to go back in the drawing book,” said defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. “(Sudfeld) basically just took advantage of our mistakes.”
The Hoosier racked up 555 total yards and while Maryland had 489, the Terrapins never really threatened after early in the third quarter. Ross accounted for a huge part of that yardage, and he kind of felt it coming. “This being my last game I wanted to go out strong,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I got a good amount of rest (last) night and I was ready to go.”
He had the most rushing yardage since Josh Allen rushed for 257 in a 2003 game against Virginia, and finished with the fourth best rushing day in school history behind Lamont Jordan (306 versus Virginia, 1999), Bruce Perry (276 versus Wake Forest, 2001) and Allen.
“It was a refreshing change of pace,” deadpanned tackle Ryan Doyle of the rushing yardage. “To see (Ross) running down the field after you make a block is a good feeling.”
After being slowed a little in the second quarter, Ross was back to his old tricks to start the second half, blasting 75 yards on the second play from scrimmage. His dash down the right sideline brought Maryland within 30-28 at 14:18.
But the comeback was short-lived. A Maryland onside kick went awry, David Greene kicking it too hard and out of bounds at midfield. Four plays later, Sudfield drilled a 6-yard scoring pass to Mitchell Paige at 13:04 to make it 37-28, and the Hoosiers were never headed again.
Cockerille was in fulltime now for the injured Rowe, and he ran three straight times but couldn’t get a first down. Nicolas Pritchard punted 36 yards but again, Indiana had great field position. And again, took advantage. Sudfeld hit Cobbs on a pass in the flat, and the lanky receiver broke two tackles, reversed his field and went 40 yards to the 3-yard line. Two plays later, Sudfeld hit Michael Cooper for a 3-yard score and a 44-28 lead at 9:50.
The Terrapins couldn’t net a first down the next two times they had the ball, and the second time Indiana got it back, the Hoosiers slowed down a little and milked 4:36 off the clock on a 40-yard drive that resulted in a 36-yard field goal from Griffin Oakes and a 47-28 lead with 1:48 left in the third period.
There weren’t many Terrapin highlights late unless you count Cockerille’s batted-ball completion to himself, which he tried to throw again. It was a five-yard penalty and loss of down.
On the Terrapins’ second drive in the fourth quarter, Cockerille got something going. It started with a 23-yard run by Ross. Cockerille hit Levern Jacobs for 19 yards, then hit P.J. Gallo for four yards on a key fourth down play. Cockerille ran for 10 yards and hit Malcolm Culmer for nine, but the drive stalled at the 15-yard line, Cockerille’s fourth-down pass batted down with 4:21 to play.
“Well, your game plan has to change entirely (when you lose your quarterback),” said Doyle of the second half offense. “You have to make sure you’re running plays your personnel can run. With Caleb, he’s pretty versatile and we can do a lot of things whereas Shane is more of a scramble who likes to move in the pocket.”
Cockerille was 11-of-22 passing for 82 yards, the first completions of his career. Rowe was 10-of-19 for 88 yards and a touchdown. And for the first time this season, Maryland didn’t throw an interception.
Levern and Taivon Jacobs each had four catches, 50 yards for Levern and 22 for Taivon. DJ Moore had three grabs for 25 yards and Culmer, two for 23, including a score.
Rowe had 27 yards rushing and took a hit on a run at approximately 2:58 of the first half that knocked him out of the game, though he returned to finish the half. Cockerille rushed 12 times for 23 yards, Kenneth Goins, Jr., six times for 18 yards.
Doyle said Indiana increased the pressure up front and put more men up on the line. “They definitely wanted to stop the run because that’s how were getting points; off quick runs and letting Brandon do his thing.”
First Half Shootout
Befitting two basketball schools, the first half was a game of runs, Maryland up 21-3, then trailing 30-21 at the half. The two schools combined for 596 yards in the half (326 by Indiana) and 88 plays.
Indiana’s offense finally joined the burgeoning shootout when Sudfeld took them 77 yards in 11 plays to make 21-10 on a 19-yard slant to Mitchell Page at 1:32 of the first quarter.
The Hoosiers then got their first stop on Maryland at the beginning of the second quarter, forcing a 33-yard Pritchard punt. Three plays later, Sudfeld hit Andre Booker in stride on a deep post route for a 59-yard score to make it 21-17 at 14:02.
Then the Hoosiers ran a little flim-flam, recovering a perfectly-executed onside kick at their own 49. Sudfeld beat a heavy blitz on a third down with a lob pass to Luke Timian for 24 yards to the 8-yard line. On the next play, Mike Majette burst up the middle for an apparent score but was ruled down inside the one by replay. Roman Braglio stopped him short on the next play but on a third down quarterback sneak, Sudfeld scored from the one to make it 24-21 at 11:59.
The Terrapins punted for the second straight time when Rowe came up short on a third down scramble. Pritchard’s punt was just 31 yards and IU started at the 46. Sudfeld hit Cobbs for 30 yards on a screen and then Redding gained 15 on the ground to the 9-yard line.
Maryland forced a field goal, Oakes connecting from 19 yards at 8:00, to make it 27-21.
Cockerille replaced Rowe and got Maryland out of a hole with a pass interference call on a deep ball to Amba Etta-Tawo. Rowe returned and gained 13 yards on a draw, but the drive fizzled. But another special teams gaffe cost Maryland. The Terrapins faked the punt with a short snap to Anthony Nixon, but Nixon bobbled the snap and was tackled for a 3-yard loss at his own 32.
The Terrapin defense again held, forcing a 48-yard field goal by Oakes that made it 30-21 at 3:20.
The Terps went back to Ross when they got the ball back. He ripped off and 11-yard run and then a 15-yarder. Rowe completed a key fourth-down throw to Moore for six yards and a first down to move the ball into IU territory, but on an ensuing fourth-and-five, his pass to Moore was off target and the Terps turned the ball over on downs at the 36 with 26 seconds left in the half.
The Terrapin offense, suggish in recent weeks, got off to a fast start, Ross zipping 79 yards untouched on a draw on Maryland’s second play from scrimmage. The Terps jumped in front 7-3 with the play at 10:34.
When Indiana went out on three plays, the Terrapin offense got another crack at that porous Hoosier defense. They went 87 yards in nine plays. Rowe hit Ross on a big 9-yard third down play, beating a blitz. Ross then rolled 14 yards, nearly breaking off his second long scoring run. Rowe hit Johnson in the left flat and Johnson turned it into a 23-yard gain. Two more shorter completions took the ball down to the 22, and then Ross slashed through another big hole on the right side and went 22 yards for his second score at 7:10, to make it 14-3.
Then Maryland’s defense came up with a big play, Yannick Ngakoue coming off the edge and hitting Sudfeld as he was throwing, the ball flew up into the air and a diving Quinton Jefferson came up with it at the 20-yard line It was originally ruled an interception but later correctly changed to a sack and fumble. The sack was no. 13.5 on the season for Ngakoue, breaking the school single season record of 13 held by Mark Duda (1982) and Bruce Palmer (1978).
Rowe hit Jahrvis Davenport for 11 yards on a slant to the 9-yard line. Three plays later, Rowe found Culmer on a screen. Crunching blocks from center Evan Mulrooney and guard Andrew Zeller cleared the middle of the field and Culmer dashed in for a 14-yard score at 5:32, Maryland up 21-3.
The Hoosiers had gone 74 yards in 10 plays to open the game but Maryland’s defense stiffened near the goal line. Linebacker Avery Thompson, playing his final home game, had a big hit on second down at the 3-yard line, and then Jefferson hit Redding for a 2-yard loss on third down. Oakes came on to boot a 21-yard field goal at 11:24.
“I want to thank our seniors for the great leadership they’ve provided for the last six weeks and for their four or five years,” said Locksley. “They’ve done some good things. Obviously as we’re finishing up we’re struggling a little bit but those guys have been great leaders. I wanted to win this for our seniors. I know our team did. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done.”