Maryland’s first season under Randy Edsall will end without a bowl. Virginia’s second season under Mike London will probably be capped with the school’s first postseason appearance since 2007.
The fate of both teams’ season was determined Saturday, with the rising Cavaliers pulling away from the reeling Terrapins 31-13 at Byrd Stadium.
While Virginia can start plotting a holiday destination, Maryland has three games remaining in a lost season.
“As a team, it’s pride now,” quarterback Danny O’Brien said. “No one wants pitch it in and call it a year.”
A feeble second-half extinguished the remaining tangible meaning from the season for the Terps (2-7, 1-5 ACC), who were eliminated from bowl contention earlier than any year since 1998.
Only a year ago, Virginia found itself in a similar predicament. It became bowl ineligible on its home field as Maryland rolled into town attempting to remain the conference title race, dominated the second half and departed with a victory.
Two sequences assured payback for the Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2), who snapped a 13-game November losing skid that dated back to 2007.
One came at the start. Maryland’s kickoff coverage, dubious at best all season, permitted Virginia’s Khalek Shepherd a 48-yard return. On the next play, the struggling Terp run defense couldn’t bring down tailback Perry Jones, who rumbled for 47 yards and a score.
“It’s like ‘Here we go again,’” Edsall said.
Except the Terps recovered to some degree, scoring the next 13 points despite settling for a pair of short field goals in the red zone.
Maryland had scored more than 10 points before halftime for only the third time all season. But just before the break, Virginia’s Michael Rocco found Kevin Parks, unfettered by any semblance of coverage, in the right flat for an easy 35-yard touchdown.
Things never got better. Virginia scored touchdowns on its first two possessions in the third quarter. The Terps committed five turnovers after the break.
“It took the air out of the balloon a little bit,” safety Eric Franklin said. “We just had a blown coverage, basically, a guy wide open. You can’t make those kind of mistakes.”
Indeed, those sorts of miscues have haunted Maryland all season.
Virtually nothing has gone right for the Terps since its Labor Day defeat of Miami, one talked about nationally mainly because of the “Maryland pride” uniforms donned that night. Given the results in the two months since, pride rather clearly came before the fall for the Terps.
And what a calamitous fall it has been, going even beyond the ongoing vacillation between quarterbacks O’Brien (who started for the first time since Oct. 8) and C.J. Brown (who entered and exited twice in relief).
The Terps are one of only two bowl ineligible teams in the ACC so far; the other, Boston College, stampeded for 372 yards in a victory over the Terps a week earlier. Maryland drew its smallest crowd in 11 years to that game, though attendance bounced back to 37,401 Saturday.
The remnants of that gathering was solidly pro-Virginia in the end. Yet on their way to the parking lots, Maryland fans expressed their displeasure with the Terps and the trajectory of their first season under Edsall.
With three games away from College Park remaining, it does prompt the question of just how Maryland will make it through the rest of the month.
“We’re not going to slog through anything,” Edsall said. “We’re going to go out there and play hard and work to get to better.
While Virginia fans enjoyed their school’s third straight victory at Byrd – in gleeful defiance of Edsall’s boast that “here at Maryland, we don’t lose to Virginia” at halftime of a basketball game at Comcast Center exactly eight months earlier – and a return to moderate relevance, the Terps appear to be plummeting back to the depths of their 2-10 season of just two years ago.
“That definitely takes away the goal of going to a bowl for us,” center Bennett Fulper said. “Then again, everybody’s a competitor and you want to win and continue to get better. That’s what we need to do.”