MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe was one of the first players to walk off the field after his team’s embarrassing 45-6 loss at West Virginia on Saturday, bowing his head as the crowd began to sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Rowe escaped by running into the tunnel and disappearing into a somber locker room, looking like a player who desperately wanted to forget this day as soon as possible.
It is unclear where Coach Randy Edsall and his team will go from here, as a brutal conference stretch begins with next weekend’s Big Ten opener against Michigan. But it can’t get much worse than Saturday.
During a first half that became borderline comical, the Terrapins had more penalty yards (65) than passing yards (24). Rowe endured the worst performance of his career, finishing with just 67 passing yards and four interceptions. And the defense never had a chance against West Virginia’s Air-Raid offense, which finished with 602 total yards, 427 of them coming by halftime, when the Mountaineers held a 38-0 lead.
The first of many questions for Maryland moving forward is at quarterback. But when Edsall was asked if Rowe would be the starter next week, he said he would evaluate the redshirt junior and backup Daxx Garman, before adding: “I would think [Rowe] would be, yes.”
Rowe was promoted to the starting lineup two weeks ago to infuse Maryland’s offense with energy, but he did the exact opposite Saturday. He missed on 11 of his first 13 throws and looked visibly frustrated with his wide receivers, although Edsall stuck with him to start the second half despite the massive deficit.
“We wanted to give Caleb another shot,” Edsall said. “Caleb is going to learn from it. He has to learn from it.”
Rowe was intercepted for the third time on the first play of the second half. On the ensuing drive, he led the Terrapins (2-2) to the West Virginia 10. But on fourth and seven he forced a throw into the end zone and was picked off again. Edsall replaced him with Garman the next time the offense was sent out.
Maryland’s most promising possession of the day was likely its first, when it converted two third downs to move into West Virginia territory. But the Mountaineers (3-0) stopped running back Wes Brown on fourth and one at the 38-yard line and rolled from there. Maryland had five consecutive three-and-outs following the opening drive, and each of its final three possessions of the half ended in turnovers — the first when running back Brandon Ross ran 55 yards, only to fumble just before the goal line and watch the ball roll out of the end zone, followed by a pair of Rowe interceptions.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” senior offensive lineman Andrew Zeller said, “and they capitalized on our mistakes.”
Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard toyed with the Maryland secondary all afternoon, including on a play-action fake that set up a seven-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0. After a Maryland three-and-out, he needed just three plays and 47 seconds to take West Virginia 47 yards on the ensuing drive, which was capped by a four-yard touchdown run by Wendell Smallwood.
Less than five minutes into the second quarter, Howard had hit wide receiver Shelton Gibson for a pair of touchdown passes, including a 41-yarder that beat junior cornerback William Likely in one-on-one coverage, to make it 28-0.
Garman, a graduate-student transfer from Oklahoma State playing in his first game for Maryland, completed 3 of 8 passes for 74 yards and a 44-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport. He was the third quarterback to take the field for Maryland in the first four weeks of the season. In a suitably grim footnote to the game, he was intercepted on the final play.
“We had a lot of mistakes on the offense as a unit. It’s not just one guy,” freshman tight end Avery Edwards said. “We have to learn from this.”
But Maryland’s problems run deeper than the quarterback position. It suffered another humbling setback against an up-tempo offense just two weeks after Bowling Green came into College Park and put up nearly 700 yards of total offense in a 48-27 win. The sting of that loss was only compounded by Saturday’s dud, which marked Maryland’s ninth loss to the rival Mountaineers in 10 tries.
“The thing that disappointed me more than anything today is that we played undisciplined at times,” Edsall said. “We just didn’t get it done today.”