WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After putting up a competitive fight for one half Saturday, in the end all Maryland had to show for itself after a 31-10 loss to Wake Forest were a few dubious distinctions in a disastrous season.
The Terrapins (2-9, 1-6 ACC) lost their seventh consecutive game and their sixth straight by double digits. Maryland had not lost six straight games by at least 10 points since the 1997 season. And Wake Forest’s 21-point victory margin was its largest against Maryland since 1968.
What’s more, after Maryland’s defense played well in the first half — allowing 40 rushing yards and seven points — it finished the game having allowed 514 total yards. The Terrapins have given up at least 500 yards in four of their last six games. Under former coach Ralph Friedgen, they gave up 500 yards four times in 125 games.
Playing before an announced crowd of 30,112 at BB&T Field, the Demon Deacons (6-5, 5-3) became bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. The Terrapins will close a disappointing first season for Coach Randy Edsall on the road next week against a North Carolina State team that needs the victory to become bowl eligible.
“Whatever could go wrong, has gone wrong,” Edsall said about his first season.
Saturday’s performance was laden with missed opportunities and miscues that summed up a forgettable season and kept the Terrapins from making the game close in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
An illegal-shift penalty on wide receiver Kevin Dorsey nullified a third-quarter touchdown that would have given Maryland the lead. Instead, place kicker Nick Ferrara missed a 36-yard field goal, the second miss of his three field goal attempts Saturday.
Asked about the penalty, starting quarterback C.J. Brown said: “That was just a dagger. We were playing so well. We came back and had that opportunity to go up and let it slip by.”
“It was a killer,” defensive lineman Joe Vellano said.
But there were other reasons for Maryland to rue this defeat. The Terrapins converted just 4 of 16 third-down attempts. They were 0 for 4 in red zone opportunities. And tight end Matt Furstenburg’s dropped pass in the end zone in the final minutes was, in Edsall’s words, the “exclamation point on kind of what took place.”
Brown, who completed 20 of 42 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown, said the red zone issues “hurt us major today. You have to be able to put the ball in the end zone. We left a lot of missed opportunities out there.”
With Danny O’Brien out for the season with a broken bone in his upper arm, Brown was Maryland’s only available scholarship quarterback. But that didn’t stop him from running with abandon for much of the game. The sophomore finished with 110 rushing yards.
O’Brien’s broken arm was not the only offensive injury for Maryland. Redshirt freshman Sal Conaboy, who had not played since the Oct. 1 Towson game, started at center in place of Bennett Fulper, who had pulled his hamstring in Thursday’s practice.
And yet Maryland managed a 7-7 halftime tie Saturday. The defense had probably its best performance for two quarters since the Oct. 8 loss at Georgia Tech. Lorne Goree started at middle linebacker because Demetrius Hartsfield shifted to weak-side linebacker to fill the void left by the injured Alex Twine. Goree finished with 10 tackles.
And Andre Monroe, who started at defensive tackle, finished with 21 / 2 sacks, the most sacks in a game by a Maryland player since Shawne Merriman had three in 2002.
But the defense gave up too many big plays in the second half. Wake Forest wide receiver Chris Givens, who broke the school’s single-season record for receiving yards, had 191 receiving yards on eight catches. Quarterback Tanner Price completed 20 of 32 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns.
“Self-inflicted wounds,” Vellano said of the defensive lapses. “We slipped up on a couple big plays.”
Wake Forest broke the halftime tie with a 25-yard field goal early in the third quarter. During the drive, Price hooked up with Givens for a 64-yard reception. Givens carried cornerback Trenton Hughes for at least the final 10 yards of the play.
The Terrapins quickly responded, with Brown scampering for 30 yards to put them in position to at least tie the score. But the illegal-shift penalty pushed Maryland back, and Ferrara missed the 36-yard field goal. Ferrara also missed a 32-yard field goal and made a 42-yard attempt. He also had a 15-yard punt in the game.
“I think the young man is trying so hard, he hurts himself,” Edsall said. “I told him: ‘Just relax. You’ve got a good leg. You are a good kicker, a good punter.’ . . . It’s like I have to lay him down on the couch before the game and talk to him and keep reminding him. He is his own worst enemy.”
Next week, N.C. State can become the fourth ACC team to become bowl eligible this season against Maryland. Playing spoiler is all the Terrapins can do at this point.
“We’d rather get beat than beat ourselves,” Vellano said. “Just keep fighting.”