LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- For seven quarters, Maryland had the stability at quarterback that coach Mark Duffner wanted.
Unfortunately for the Terps, they also had no points.
Scott Milanovich got another chance to lead Maryland's troubled offense last night at Louisville, but by the time he replaced Brian Cummings with 12 minutes left, the Cardinals had a 17-0 lead and the Terps were well on the way to their third loss in four games, a 31-0 embarrassment that continued their disarray of the last month.
Maryland was coming off a 17-0 Homecoming loss to Clemson, and the successive shutouts are the first since 1969.
Maryland (5-3) has scored 12 points in its last four games, and that drought has put a serious dent in the Terps' hopes of going to a bowl game for only the second time in a decade.
"I feel bad," said Cummings, who completed 11 of 18 for 156 yards. "I feel we let the defense down. I don't know about coach [Duffner], but the players are pretty frustrated."
That frustration boiled over in the fourth quarter, when Louisville (4-4), which had lost three of its last four, delighted 36,386 wind-blown homecoming fans by scoring three consecutive touchdowns. Maryland's top cornerback, A. J. Johnson, was ejected for fighting with 10 minutes to go, and he'll miss the first half of next week's game at North Carolina State.
"That second half was very embarrassing," junior linebacker Ratcliff Thomas said. "We flat-out got our butts kicked. That team shouldn't beat us in a million years. In other years, the offense has carried us. We had to pick them up today, and we didn't. Everything went right for them [Louisville], and everything went wrong for us."
The total collapse was more disturbing than the ones that occurred in the losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson.
Down 3-0, Maryland drove 75 yards with the second-half kickoff to the Cardinals' 2-yard line, but their short-yardage offense failed on successive downs, as did reserve kicker Brad Rhodes, who was wide left on a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Maryland's failures continued after the teams traded punts, and this time it infected the defense.
Of the nation's 108 Division I-A teams, Louisville ranked 103rd in rushing, but it rolled to a season-high 220 yards on the ground. On a telling 48-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, coach Ron Cooper called for nine straight rushing plays. Six Terps had a shot at Bowie native Calvin Arrington on his 5-yard touchdown run that, along with Maryland's missing offense, made the fourth quarter meaningless.
Cummings, a redshirt sophomore who was at the helm during the Terps' 4-0 start, stepped aside when Milanovich returned from a four-game gambling suspension, but got his second straight start yesterday. Asked which quarterback would start next week at N.C. State, Duffner said he didn't know yet and deflected blame for the loss, with justification.
"It was a very hurtful loss," Duffner said. "We're in a tough situation, and we've got to turn it around immediately. There are a lot of things we didn't successfully employ in the second half that we'd better correct. We're all disappointed, irritated. I believe in them, and the only solution right now is sticking together."
The defense did put up a goal-line stand that limited Louisville to a 3-0 lead at the half, but even that came after a letdown similar to the one that afflicted it at the end of the first half against Clemson. Maryland was guilty of poor clock management, as Milanovich began the second and fourth quarters by punting into the wind. Jermaine Lewis made a judgment error when he let a punt bounce and roll 35 yards to the Terps 2.
All of those problems will be addressed, but the priority for Duffner is straightening out the offense. The blitz was again a problem for a young offensive line, as Louisville dropped Cummings and Milanovich six times for losses totaling 53 yards. During the four-game slump, Maryland has averaged 24.3 yards rushing.
The ground game did crank up at the start of the second half, when the offense drove inside the 20 for the first time in 19 possessions, but it shut down just as quickly. Brian Underwood was stuffed for no gain on second and goal from the 2. After Cummings was sacked for a seven-yard loss, Rhodes, filling in for the injured Joe O'Donnell, missed his second field-goal attempt of the game.
The offense didn't get any better under Milanovich, who hadn't played since being replaced in the second quarter at Wake Forest on Oct. 7.
Milanovich, who was unhappy on the sidelines and wore an NFL cap against Clemson last week, wore a Maryland cap and seemed eager to play this time. He warmed up in the second quarter, but didn't come in until the fourth.
On Milanovich's first possession, the Terps went for it on fourth-and-1 at their own 29-yard line. Linebacker Tyrus McCloud nailed Underwood for a 2-yard loss, and three plays later, the momentum swing reached outrageous proportions when Lowe's pass bounced off the right side of wide receiver Coswell Sims and into his arms for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 24-0 lead.
Milanovich was intercepted seven plays later, and the defense endured the humiliation of second-team quarterback Jason Payne's directing a 75-yard Louisville touchdown drive.
Whether the quarterback was Cummings or Milanovich -- or the site was Atlanta, Winston-Salem, N.C., College Park or Kentucky -- the offense has struggled. The slump started in September, and when -- if? -- it's solved, it won't happen until November.
Maryland ..0 0 0 0 -- 0
Louisville 0 3 7 21 -- 31