The good news: Maryland only has two more road games against ranked Big Ten teams. The bad news: since winning their last two Big Ten road games in 2014, the Terps have lost nine of 11 on the road in the conference and are 0-6 against ranked Big Ten teams away from College Park.
The reality: Maryland had a chance to make it a game, or at least a half, against No. 5 Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday before a questionable play call by offensive coordinator Walt Bell and continued third-down trouble on both sides of the ball led to a 38-13 defeat.
The loss was the third straight and fourth in five games for Maryland (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten), putting the Terps under .500 for the first time this season. It’s hard to remember that DJ Durkin’s team was 2-0 and before losing its two top quarterbacks, Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill.
Traiilng 7-0 after sophomore quarterback Max Bortenschlager threw a pick-six on Maryland’s first possession — his first interception as a starter — Maryland had a chance to tie the score after forcing two straight Wisconsin turnovers to start the game.
The first was an interception by senior safety Josh Woods (McDonogh). The second was a forced fumble inside the Wisconsin 5, with junior defensive tackle Brett Kulka stripping freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, the Big Ten’s leading rusher, around the 3.
Just as happened in a 62-14 loss at then-No. 10 Ohio State two weeks ago, the Terps were unable to take advantage of the early turnovers and the Badgers’ slow start offensively, by Taylor in particular.
Worst play call
After junior safety Darnell Savage Jr. recovered Taylor’s fumble at the Wisconsin 5, Maryland tried to go to junior DJ Moore, the Big Ten’s top receiver, on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone. Moore caught the pass out of bounds.
Given that the Terps had averaged more than four yards per carry on their first nine rushing attempts, and leading rusher Ty Johnson had picked up 39 yards on his first six carries, it’s unclear why Bell didn’t stay on the ground.
Johnson ran for no gain on second down, and on third-and-goal from the 5, Bortenschlager tried to find Moore, who appeared to be held in the end zone before the pass fell incomplete.
Maryland had to settle for a short field goal by graduate transfer Henry Darmstadter.
With their hopes for a second straight bowl appearance under Durkin fading quickly — the Terps might have to hope to be one of the 5-7 teams that gets an invitation — Indiana visits College Park for homecoming on Saturday.
It starts a two-week window that is clearly the easiest part of the Big Ten’s toughest schedule for Maryland. It will be followed by a trip to Piscataway, N.J., to play Rutgers. That game was moved Friday from Yankee Stadium.
Truth is, the way things are going for Maryland right now, the Terps might go into both of those games as underdogs. If Durkin’s team wants to have any shot at a bowl, winning those two games are a must given the three teams on the back end of the schedule.