The Maryland football team watched from the sidelines as Dexter McDougle howled in pain, hoping and praying that his shoulder injury was nothing serious. The senior cornerback had developed into one of the Terrapins’ biggest playmakers, as evidenced by a game-changing interception returned for a touchdown Saturday night against Connecticut, but as he sat on the grass at Rentschler Field during the third quarter, a somber hush fell over the team. None knew the severity of McDougle’s injury after the 32-21 win, but any loss would be a blow to the defense he had anchored.

Their worst fears were realized Sunday afternoon, when Coach Randy Edsall announced on his weekly conference call that McDougle would soon undergo shoulder surgery, ending both his season and college career. McDougle will visit doctors tomorrow for a CT scan to determine the injury’s severity and surgical timetable, but Edsall said he will certainly go under the knife “next week or sometime very, very soon.”

“Dexter was playing as good as he’s played since I’ve been here,” Edsall said. “It’s just sad that this happened to him.”

A fifth-year senior from Falmouth, Va., McDougle will not be eligible for a sixth-year medical redshirt, which Terps quarterback C.J. Brown was granted earlier this year. Those are rare exceptions given to players who miss two seasons due to injury. Since this is McDougle’s first ailment since joining the program, he will likely enter the NFL draft next April. Edsall said McDougle has just one class to complete in order to graduate.

“It’s part of the game,” Edsall said. “It happens. You have no control over it. I don’t like when it happens, whenever we have injuries to young people who are out there doing all the things they want to do to play this great game.

“I sympathize with those injuries that do happen, but you have to have the next guy step up and ready to play. You’re going to have injuries. You just hope you don’t have too many of them.”

Minutes after he intercepted Connecticut quarterback Chandler Whitmer and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown to put Maryland ahead by 14 points, McDougle jammed his shoulder into the ground attempting to make a diving tackle at the line of scrimmage. Replays showed him biting his undershirt in pain as team trainers swarmed him. He later walked into the locker room propping up his right arm and would not return to the sidelines.

“The one thing we talk about is playing every play like it’s the last play you’re playing,” Edsall said. “He went out there and made that tackle, that hit, he was playing his tail off and giving it everything he had. It’s unfortunate that it caused an injury.”

McDougle had been Maryland’s iron man of sorts, starting all 27 games since Edsall arrived in College Park. His two interceptions against the Huskies were a personal best, and his three this season both doubled his career total and helped the Terps match their 2012 number in just two games.

An intelligent workhorse who emerged as an upperclassman leader this season, McDougle will continue to travel with the Terps and attend meetings. “He’ll be kind of a coach for us,” Edsall said.

Last season, four Maryland quarterbacks suffered season-ending injuries. This year, the plague has spread to cornerback. Jeremiah Johnson, the preseason starter opposite McDougle, fractured his toe against Florida International in the season opener and will miss at least five more weeks. This leaves senior Isaac Goins and freshman Will Likely as the two starters, to be backed up by Alvin Hill and freshman Jarrett Ross, with West Virginia’s spread offense ahead next week.

“Those are the guys who have been practicing there, playing and getting reps,” Edsall said.

>> Edsall gave no update on starting wide receiver Nigel King, who suffered a leg injury on the Maryland offense’s second snap this weekend. Edsall did say King will not require surgery.