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Five things we learned from Maryland's 31-24 loss at Rutgers

A year ago, Maryland’s four-game losing streak against some of the Big Ten’s best teams left the Terps needing to beat Rutgers at home in the regular-season finale in order to become bowl eligible in coach DJ Durkin’s first season in College Park.

The Scarlet Knights complied, with Maryland’s 31-13 win evening the record at 6-6.

Quick Lane Bowl, here they come.

This year, Rutgers got some redemption and the Terps, now 4-5 after Saturday’s down-to-the-wire 31-24 loss at High Point Solutions Stadium, now have to likely win two of their final three games against three of the Big Ten’s best teams.

Given that Maryland was outscored 97-17 last season by Michigan and Penn State doesn’t leave much hope for the two remaining home games — Saturday against the Wolverines and Nov. 25 against the Nittany Lions.

Michigan State, which lost to Maryland last year in College Park, has seemingly put its disastrous 3-9 season in 2016 in the past and might be the toughest remaining opponent. The No. 24 Spartans, who host Maryland on Nov. 18, beat No. 7 Penn State, 27-24, on Saturday to go to 7-2, drawing even with Ohio State at 5-1 in the Big Ten East.

Not that any of them are true revelations, but here are five things we learned from Maryland’s loss at Rutgers.

1. This might turn out to be like 2012 after all.

That was Randy Edsall’s second year in the program, just as it is Durkin’s. After a 4-2 start playing a true freshman, Perry Hills, in place of junior C.J. Brown, who tore his ACL in preseason practice, the Terps lost six straight games as well as three other quarterbacks.

This year, after starting 3-1 despite losing sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome in the opener at Texas and true freshman Kasim Hill two weeks later against Central Florida, Maryland could wind up losing seven of their last eight to also finish 4-8 while going through at least three quarterbacks.

Sophomore quarterback Max Bortenschlager has proved to be resilient coming back from a mild concussion a week after Ohio State and also returning to games against Wisconsin and Indiana after getting banged up.

But he couldn’t finish Saturday’s game after an apparent shoulder injury.

If sophomore walk-on Ryan Brand starts Saturday’s game against Michigan, he will be the fourth quarterback to start and fifth to play this season. Brand, who nearly led the Terps on a last-minute comeback to force overtime, acquitted himself well, finishing 8-for-12 for 68 yards.

Either Brand outplayed redshirt junior Caleb Henderson in practice or the North Carolina transfer is still not 100 percent — or both.

2. Maryland’s defensive scheme needs some retooling

Regardless of the fact that the Terps lost senior linebacker Jessie Aniebonam in the opener to a broken ankle, Maryland’s inability to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks has enabled average ones to make big plays all season.

That was certainly evident again Saturday, when junior Giovanni Rescigno completed just eight of 17 passes for 107 yards, but hit on six of his last eight, including what turned out to be the game-winning 23-yard score to running back Gus Edwards with 7:30 to go.

Rescigno, who has never been compared to Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett when it comes to running the ball, also rushed six times for 54 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7. The Scarlet Knights averaged 5.2 yards a carry.

What was a bend-but-not-break defense in shootout wins over Texas to start the season and Indiana a week ago could wind up getting mangled by Maryland’s last three opponents if the Terps are content to keep everything in front of them.

3. DJ Moore doesn’t get the respect he deserves from game officials.

Moore, who is tied with Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs for the most catches in the Big Ten this season with 59, overcame a quiet start to finish with eight receptions for 75 yards against Rutgers. He should’ve had a ninth catch — a 15-yard touchdown from Brand with 46 seconds left to help tie the game.

Instead, officials allowed Rutgers cornerback Isaiah Wharton to absolutely maul Moore in the end zone, first grabbing his jersey and arm, then pushing him nearly out of bounds. Moore, who is one of the most dynamic and reliable receivers in recent Maryland history, nearly caught it anyway.

This isn’t the first time Moore didn’t get a call at a key moment in a game. In Maryland’s loss at home to Northwestern three weeks ago, Moore was pushed to the ground by a defender not playing the ball. That prevented the Terps from possibly closing a 10-point deficit in what was a 16-point loss.

The noncall Saturday cost Maryland a chance to get the game into overtime.

As great a receiver as he has been this season, Moore deserves better.

4. Jerry Kill is still a dynamic play-caller.

The former Minnesota coach, whose career seemed in jeopardy because of ongoing health problems, kept the Terps off-balance for most of the afternoon. What started out as a straightforward smash-mouth running game got trickier as the day went on.

The Scarlet Knights showed that you don’t have to run a ton of plays — 64 compared to the 97 Indiana ran the week before in a 42-39 loss in College Park — to wear an opposing defense down. The final touchdown pass to Edwards was perfectly designed — and executed.

Kill’s playcalling was reminiscent of the way former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, then riding into the coaching sunset as offensive coordinator at Rutgers, outcoached his counterpart on Edsall’s staff when the Scarlet Knights came from down 35-10 to beat the Terps in College Park three years ago.

5. It might be time to burn some more redshirts.

Durkin said recently that he uses the end of Monday practices to have some of his freshmen get live reps — meaning hitting in full pads. With a second straight bowl bid unlikely, it might be time to turn some of those freshmen loose on a Saturday to see what they can do.

Unless Durkin and his staff really just want to play out the last three games, why not give some players from his much-talked-about 2017 recruiting class a chance to show what the future might be like. After breaking out of a drought last week, the Terps went sackless again.

While Durkin certainly has shown loyalty to the players who remained in the program when he took over, playing for the future should be considered so that when four-star prospects Cam Spence and Breyon Gaddy step on the field next season, they can build on whatever experience they got at the end of this one.

Just as Durkin and offensive coordinator Walt Bell like to say, there’s no difference losing by 30 or three.

If that is true, let’s see what some of these young’ns got.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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