Playing a road game just 10 miles from campus, Coach Randy Edsall dressed his team in the same garish uniforms Maryland wore when it earned its lone victory of the season over a Football Bowl Subdivision team.
Instead of recapturing the excitement and success of that opening game victory against Miami, however, the Terrapins saw their season continue to spiral downward with a 45-21 loss to Notre Dame.
If the defeat were not bad enough, they also lost starting quarterback Danny O’Brien to a season-ending injury.
Edsall said O’Brien broke a bone in his upper left, non-throwing arm when he was brought down hard while trying to run in the third quarter.
The loss of O’Brien will leave Maryland with just one scholarship quarterback, sophomore C.J. Brown.
Maryland has two games remaining, at Wake Forest and North Carolina State.
“Everyone is looking around for an answer,” defensive lineman Joe Vellano said. “There is not one. You have to get better quick. . . . I really wish there was a potion, but there isn’t.”
Before an announced crowd of 70,251 at FedEx Field, which was about two-thirds filled with Notre Dame fans, the Terrapins (2-8) made a compelling case to be considered among the nation’s worst BCS-conference teams.
They lost their sixth straight game and their fifth straight by double digits, their first such streak since 1997. And in a game televised nationally on NBC, Maryland gave up 508 yards.
To give the struggles of the defense context, consider this: Maryland gave up 500 yards for the third time in the last five weeks. In the previous 10 seasons, all under former coach Ralph Friedgen, Maryland gave up 500 yards four times.
“It’s very frustrating,” linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. “Another loss. And to lose the way we did, it’s like we just gave up, we didn’t fight like we did against Miami. We didn’t play like we did against Miami.”
When asked how frustrating it was to see teammates give up during the game, Hartsfield said: “I wouldn’t say give up. We weren’t executing, weren’t playing fast like we should. We weren’t tackling like we have been tackling in practice. It was the little things that were not clicking today.”
The knockout punch came midway through the third quarter. O’Brien, who started at quarterback, overthrew wide receiver Kevin Dorsey and cornerback Lo Wood intercepted and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown that gave the Fighting Irish a 38-7 advantage. O’Brien completed 14 of 21 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown.
After the game, Maryland’s players looked demoralized. Edsall addressed reporters for less than four minutes; there were few answers that could explain a season that has unraveled so completely one year after the team finished with a 9-4 record. The only teams Maryland has beaten this season — Miami and Towson — played with backup quarterbacks.
When asked what message he gave to his team after the game, Edsall said: “That we have to just stop making some of the mistakes that we have been making week in and week out. We have to tackle better. We have to get off on third downs. We have to make third downs. We can’t drop the ball. You have to do the little things right all the time.”
The one chance Maryland had to make the game competitive was expected to hinge on turnovers. The Terrapins entered the game tied for 13th nationally in turnover margin; the Fighting Irish were tied for 118th in that category.
But the Fighting Irish (7-3) did not turn over the ball and the game’s outcome was not in doubt after the first few minutes.
After a three-and-out to start the game, Maryland punted. And Notre Dame moved the ball almost at will.
The Terrapins’ defense proved little resistance for the Fighting Irish, who marched 67 yards in eight plays. Running back Jonas Gray scampered one yard for the game’s opening score.
As Maryland’s offense sputtered, a smattering of boos emanated from the fans in one corner of the stadium midway through the quarter. Maryland punted four times in the first quarter.
Facing a 17-0 deficit, the Terrapins finally engineered a sustained drive that included picking up four first downs. In nine plays, O’Brien directed Maryland 61 yards and culminated the possession with a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Quintin McCree. It was not nearly enough.
“I wish there was an easy fix,” Vellano said. “There isn’t.”