SAN FRANCISCO-- --The now-concluded Maryland season should go down in its history as the Year of the Tease, even more than the three previous seasons. And last night's Emerald Bowl was their season in a nutshell - a 60-minute tease.
In the long run, the Terps did remind you that they were, after all, a .500 team, and now a below-.500 team, for the third time in four years. You saw all their promise and all the ways they can let you down in one night, against an Oregon State team that was better, but not that much better.
There's no shame in being hurt or upset at the final score, a 21-14 loss. There is even less reason to be surprised. This team lost at North Carolina and beat Boston College on consecutive weekends. Predicting what would happen last night in the re-configured baseball stadium that is AT&T; Park branded you a real optimist. Ralph Friedgen probably couldn't have guessed what was going to transpire.
In the first quarter, the Terps couldn't have looked better, especially on offense, and the worst anyone could envision was a shootout victory, the kind that are routine in games at this point in the bowl season. A beautiful drive opened the game, with Chris Turner marching them downfield, hitting all but one pass, which was dropped, connecting on a touchdown pass.
On their third possession, a big play by their big-play threat, Darrius Heyward-Bey, a 63-yard beauty from Turner, a streak down the right sideline past the defender, and a 14-7 lead.
Not only did Maryland never score again, they barely threatened. The rest of their night was a confused mess of turnovers, penalties, inability to get plays off in time, missed opportunities. That was just on offense. But the offense was what was going to make the difference in this game - Maryland was either going to execute and excel with the ball, or they were going to fall short of what Oregon State running back Yvenson Bernard was going to produce.
Bernard carved the Terps' defense up, which wasn't all that unexpected. Flanker James Rodgers, running end-arounds when Maryland seemed to expect them the least, also carved them up, which didn't help. The Beavers made mistakes of their own, proving why they were in San Francisco instead of where they claimed they expected to be, at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
The second quarter was downright comical, with two interceptions, two fumbles and a missed field goal off the crossbar. In one sequence, a Turner interception was answered immediately by a Rodgers fumble. Most bizarre of the period's turnovers: Beavers quarterback Sean Canfield, from the Terps' 4, rolling far to his left, then stopping and lobbing a sort of jump-pass while being submarined by a defender, with the obvious result, Moise Fokou diving near the sideline and intercepting it in the end zone. It only cost Oregon State a chance at the tying score. It didn't matter, because the Terps then went three-and-out, and Oregon State marched downfield to a Bernard touchdown. That was the last time Maryland saw the lead.
And it should surprise no one how Oregon State went ahead for good in the third quarter - Bernard was cut down short of the end zone, fumbled forward and Rodgers dove on it across the goal line. That was, in essence, how Maryland's season ended. The blown chances from the rest of the game only prolonged the final verdict.
Their last good chance came midway through the fourth, when Oregon State took its turn goofing things up by running over Christian Varner while he was signaling for a fair catch. Maryland had first down at the Oregon State 47. They went three-and-out again, featuring a Turner pass that went through Isaiah Williams' hands on second-and-six.
That happened a lot with the Terps receivers. Other times, Turner flat-out missed receivers, short and long and in between. Another microcosm of a Maryland season-long habit, quarterback struggle. Fourteen minutes into the game, Turner looked as if he would have a game MVP trophy inscribed for him. The last 46 minutes canceled that. Friedgen minced few words afterward. "I think we played as well as we can play," he said. "It's still a consistency thing."
Realistically, 6-7 sounds and feels about right for the Terps. They had their highs and their lows. Often, they had them in the same game. Last night was one of those games.
Listen to David Steele on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).