One by one the Terrapins trudged into the Gossett Field Team auditorium for postgame interviews, facing a throng of cameras, sitting and answering questions about missed opportunities in a game they never led. They talked about their hatred for losing and the need for improvement and how a team with a shot to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2001 barely let one get away.
Maryland lost, 24-21, to Connecticut at Byrd Stadium on Saturday afternoon, falling to 2-1 on the year. Down three points with the clock winding down, the Terps went into a two-minute offense that Coach Randy Edsall said has struggled throughout practice all season. After Stefon Diggs Superman-dived his way for a first down to the Huskies 32-yard line, Perry Hills rushed for a three-yard loss. Then Kevin Dorsey dropped a sure-fire first down at the near sideline and got dropped for a four-yard loss on a blown-up bubble screen. Hills’s fourth-down heave to Kerry Boykins sailed out of the end zone.
A kneel later, and the Huskies marched to their sideline, facing the Connecticut fans who made the trip, celebrating as the Terps trudged into the locker room.
“We definitely left some plays on the field,” Maryland offensive lineman Justin Gilbert said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play your game. At the beginning we weren’t picking some things up, but at the end things were starting to roll. Give us a couple more minutes on the clock and I think we would’ve got it in.”
But the Terps ran out of time, something that never happened as they withstood a late rally against Temple and punched in a fourth-quarter touchdown in the opener vs. William & Mary.
That Hills was sacked six times didn’t help. The true freshman should have permanently attached himself to postgame ice, blitzed and battered by a furious Connecticut pass rush all afternoon. Instead, he sat wearing a Terps T-shirt and khaki shorts, six sacks absorbed into his wrestling-toughened skin, none of which hurt more than his first collegiate loss.
“Left plays out there that could have been game-changers,” Hills said. “I don’t accept losing. I don’t like losing. But I promised my team that I’ll prepare like I’ve never prepared before to get ready for this next game.”
Connecticut pushed its lead to 24-14 with a 76-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, the longest drive a rigid Maryland defense has allowed all season. A front seven that rendered Temple’s ground game utterly ineffective in Philadelphia last weekend took its lumps on that drive, as little-used backup quarterback Scott McCummings had consecutive rushes of 21 and eight yards. The drive was capped off by Lyle McCombs’s third touchdown of the season, an 11-yard burst.
“They had some great play calls,” defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. ”They did a good job switching quarterbacks. A lot of times when that happens the read-type offense feels forced. They did a good job of mixing it in, so when they brought the other quarterback in it seemed natural. We couldn’t get a grip on what they were about to run.
“My hat’s off to them. They won the game and we just have to get better for next week.”
Things certainly won’t get any easier with nationally ranked West Virginia up ahead. Francis told reporters that “all three phases of the game feel like they let the team down,” yet all three phases also kept the Terps around long enough to mount that near-comeback. But a team fresh off two fourth-quarter finishing blows in its previous two wins just couldn’t muster enough to overcome the missed chances.
“I think that when we go back and look at the film, we will see that we left a lot of plays out on the field,” Edsall said. “There were plays out there and we missed them, but it’s not like we didn’t have opportunities.
“Connecticut’s defense was ranked third in the country and first in some things, but we still scored 21 points and had an opportunity to tie or win the ballgame. Now what we have to do is show our guys the mistakes and work to get better for the next game.”