Maryland trailed but hadn’t lost hope when it received the ball, down 10 points, to start the second half against No. 15 Michigan. The Terrapins' offense had struggled against the nation’s top defense, but a score would put them a field goal away from tying the game.

The drive began and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Michigan pushed Maryland toward midfield. But then the Terps lined up in an illegal formation and backtracked five yards. Two plays later, tight end Avery Edwards jumped early to move the offense another five yards back. On the next snap, offensive lineman Sean Christie grabbed a defender’s face mask to give up another 15 yards, creating a second and 30.

“You have a chance to go compete and play,” interim coach Matt Canada said. “And we have three penalties on three seniors.”

Maryland did not gain any yardage on the two plays that followed and had to punt. Michigan scored on its next two possessions, essentially eliminating any chance for a Maryland comeback.

The series of missteps was representative of how penalties have plagued Maryland throughout this season. Defensive lineman Mbi Tanyi said before the Michigan game that “cleaning up penalties this week is a big thing for us because that’s just shooting ourselves in the foot,” but the Terps remain one of the nation’s most penalized teams.

Maryland ranks No. 126 out of 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with an average of 93.8 penalty yards per game. Saturday’s game marked the third time this year the Terps lost more than 100 yards through penalties.

Two Maryland players, Rayshad Lewis and Tre Watson, were ejected from the Michigan game by targeting calls. When Watson left the game in the third quarter, he led the team with 10 tackles. None of his teammates who played the entire game surpassed that mark. Since both targeting calls came in the second half, the two players also will miss the first half against Rutgers this weekend.

Watson’s ejection occurred after his helmet appeared to make forcible contact to the head and neck area of Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. Peoples-Jones seemed to have given up on the play, making him a defenseless player, so in that case, it wouldn’t matter whether it was the top of Watson’s helmet that made the contact.

Coaches are not allowed to comment on calls made by officials, but Watson defended his play on social media after the game.

“Be mad, call me dirty, do whatever you want that’s cool because I know what kind of player I am and I know I braced myself for a last second hit on a guy who could’ve had me on SC top 10 plays [the ‘SportsCenter’ segment] for getting laid out,” Watson wrote on Twitter. “The disrespectful tone from people is outright ridiculous.”

On Twitter, one person pointed out how a late hit on Maryland quarterback Kasim Hill was not reviewed for targeting. Watson replied that the reason was because Devin Bush, who was flagged for roughing the passer on the Terps’ first offensive snap, is an all-American and plays for Michigan.

“I’m not either of those things so it works out differently,” Watson wrote.

There hasn’t been a specific group consistently at fault for the penalties. The offense was responsible for much of Maryland’s 139 penalty yards against Bowling Green; the defense accounted for all but two false starts out of the 118 yards lost against Minnesota. Against Michigan, the problem fell on the offense, defense and special teams.

As with any issue Maryland has faced this year, Canada placed the blame on himself.

Coaches usually divide penalties into two groups — ones that come as a result of playing hard and others, such as a false start or illegal formation, that should be preventable. So coaches are tasked with eliminating what Canada calls the “no-talent” penalties, while not harping on the others so much that players stop making aggressive plays.

“We’re not going to play scared, but obviously you can’t have penalties,” Canada said last week. “Where’s that line? I’m not sure we have the answer. I’m not sure anybody does. We want our guys to play hard. . . . But we can’t have penalties. You can’t beat yourselves, and certainly we’ve had that happen in a couple games when we’ve cost ourselves some opportunities.”

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