Maryland Coach Randy Edsall looked exhausted after Saturday’s 28-0 loss to Michigan, his eyes glassy and his voice hoarse. At one point during his postgame news conference, after being asked about the lingering quarterback issues plaguing his team, Edsall looked down and said: “I think you would know that we’ll probably be making a change.”
What else could he say? Edsall had paced the sideline with confidence during a dreary day in College Park, often clapping in animated fashion as his defense came up with stops time and time again. But desperation finally set in during the third quarter after starting quarterback Caleb Rowe threw his third interception of the game, a play that ultimately doomed any chance at an upset in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Edsall simply turned around on the sideline after the turnover, pointing at his backups to get ready.
It was only 6-0 at that point, illustrating just how much of a fight Maryland’s defense put up against Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh’s smash-mouth, pro-style offense on Saturday. But the 22nd-ranked Wolverines turned Rowe’s interception into another touchdown, then devoured his replacement, Daxx Garman, in front of thousands of fans who were making their first trip to College Park, just like their team. Michigan (4-1) posted its second consecutive shutout and allowed just 105 total yards.
“Back-to-back shutouts is a heck of a thing. 2000 was the last time Michigan did that,” said Harbaugh, who was joined on the sideline by his brother, John, the Baltimore Ravens head coach. “It feels good.”
Meanwhile, a dark cloud hangs over Maryland (2-3), which suffered its third second-half meltdown in four games. It has been outscored 73-6 in the past two weeks and faces a visit to No. 1 Ohio State next week.
The Terps’ ongoing issues at quarterback continued to unravel against the country’s second-ranked defense on Saturday. Maryland finished with 10 three-and-outs on 15 drives. Rowe finished 8 of 27 passing for 47 yards and those three interceptions.
Maryland opened the week with a players-only meeting to clear the air after a 45-6 loss to West Virginia, convinced it had already reached rock bottom. Saturday’s loss may have been even more painful because of the chances the Terrapins gave themselves in the first half thanks to an almost desperate defensive performance. The game was billed as a potential slugfest because of the potential effects of Hurricane Joaquin, but conditions weren’t, in the end, as bad as feared.
It may not have mattered for Maryland’s offense.
Saturday’s game was eerily similar to last week’s debacle at West Virginia: After a promising first drive ended in Michigan territory, the entire operation collapsed. Maryland punted five times, and Rowe was intercepted twice through the first 30 minutes, the most costly coming late in a scoreless first quarter after the Terrapins’ defense had forced and recovered a fumble at the Michigan 28-yard line.
After offensive pass interference wiped out a catch for a first down by Levern Jacobs, Rowe was picked off while trying to dump a quick pass to running back Brandon Ross. Rowe, who is worst in the country with 12 interceptions, had just one completion in the second quarter as Maryland stayed close by way of a hard-nosed defensive effort: Maryland forced two turnovers and held the Wolverines to two first-half field goals.
“Our defense gave us a lot of opportunities to do more than we did,” Rowe said. “I’m a little bit at a loss of words right now.”
Like last week at West Virginia, there was speculation that Edsall would replace Rowe to begin the second half, but the redshirt junior again remained under center. Maryland wasn’t able to capitalize after Quinton Jefferson came up with an interception near midfield on the first drive of the third quarter, though, and Rowe was picked off deep inside Maryland territory on his next drive after trying to improvise an off-balance throw on third and eight.
That set up a Michigan touchdown, a 31-yard scoring pass from Jake Rudock to Drake Johnson, and Edsall pulled Rowe in favor of senior transfer Daxx Garman in an attempt to jump-start his offense.
But Garman (2-of-9 passing for 29 yards) looked cold, and Maryland’s defense finally wore down. By the time Michigan’s Jehu Chesson rounded the corner on a jet-sweep with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, no Maryland player was there to meet him. His 66-yard score made it 21-0, slamming the door on an upset bid that at least looked somewhat possible in the early stages of the game.
Edsall was asked Saturday what he would tell the fans and his team after a disheartening start to the season — a season that will only grow more difficult next week.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for us. That’s what it is,” Edsall said.
He ended the somber postgame press conference a couple minutes later, and Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson gave him a few pats on the back as he walked out. Edsall eventually disappeared back into the team’s facility, which fell eerily quiet.