Instead, the Terps suffered the indignity Saturday of losing to the Blue Raiders again. And this time was worse because it was by a single point and in front of Maryland's own stunned fans rather than on the road.
All the Terps could do was watch at the end as sophomore Alan Gendreau kicked a 19-yard field goal on the last play of the game, lifting the Blue Raiders to a 32-31 victory in a game Maryland literally fumbled away with four turnovers. The Blue Raiders danced and leaped on the field in celebration.
"It's as bad of a loss for me personally as I've ever been involved with," said Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin, who faulted the three fumbles and one interception - but also his own play-calling.
The defeat stunned a young Maryland team and its coaches because the Terps (1-2) had seemed to be in control of the game. Maryland had 446 yards of offense, including two second-half touchdown passes to wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Middle Tennessee's winning points capped an eight-play, 73-yard drive in the final 1:30. Earlier, Maryland had rallied to take a 31-29 lead on a 42-yard field goal by freshman Nick Ferrara with 6:14 to play. Ferrara then missed another attempt, also from 42 yards, that could have given Maryland a five-point advantage in the last two minutes.
"You can't put a freshman kicker in position to win the game," said Franklin, who praised Ferrara overall for "doing a heck of a job."
Franklin blamed himself in part for Ferrara's miss. After three straight running plays by Davin Meggett, Franklin called for quarterback Chris Turner to keep the ball - he had the option to run or throw - on first down from the Middle Tennessee 32-yard line. The play resulted in a sack that cost the Terps 10 valuable yards. Maryland considered going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Middle Tennessee 25 but opted instead for Ferrara's kick, which went wide right.
"It obviously wasn't a good call," Franklin said of the play that resulted in a sack.
Middle Tennessee's winning drive was highlighted by a 35-yard pass from quarterback Dwight Dasher to Chris McClover that took the ball to the Maryland 10. Sophomore cornerback Cameron Chism, who had two interceptions as the replacement for injured Terps captain Nolan Carroll, said he got burned.
"I got beat on a stop-and-go," Chism said. "My hamstring started cramping a little bit in the fourth quarter, and I couldn't go as fast as I wanted to go. When I tried to accelerate, I felt it pulling."
Two of Maryland's fumbles were by running back Da'Rel Scott, who had 117 yards on 13 carries. Also fumbling was backup quarterback Jamarr Robinson, a running threat who came in for Turner on several plays.
There were scattered boos from the announced 43,167 at Byrd Stadium after a few of the turnovers. As the game ended, there was mostly silence.
"We're showing everyone that we're here to play and that we can beat bigger schools," Dasher said.
Until last season, Maryland had been 4-0 against Middle Tennessee and other teams from the Sun Belt Conference.
"We made so many mistakes," said a frustrated Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "I was hoping this game would help us regain confidence. I am going to go back and start getting real tough - we are going to do things the right way. We are going to play better next week, I promise you."
Smith, the receiver and kickoff returner, did his best to save the Terps from themselves, catching touchdown bombs of 37 and 64 yards from Turner in the second half.
The first touchdown catch put Maryland ahead 21-13 with 12:22 left in the third quarter. The second reception along the left sideline put the Terps up 28-23 in the opening moments of the fourth quarter. Smith, who finished with five catches for 165 yards, and 109 yards on six kickoff returns, has been on a roll since returning a kickoff for a touchdown in last season's Humanitarian Bowl.
Smith said the long plays bolstered Maryland's attack and stretched the defense. But he expressed concern about Maryland's turnovers.
"You could bring the New England Patriots into our conference and they'll lose the game if they fumble four times," he said.
The Terrapins have turned the ball over on interceptions or fumbles eight times this season. Maryland's defense has forced three turnovers - all of them Saturday.
"It's the same story as last week," Turner said, referring to Maryland's 38-35 overtime win over James Madison, which is in the Football Championship Subdivision. "We're not a good enough team to make those mistakes and still win a game."
0 13 10 9-32
7 7 7 10-31
First quarter Md-Scott 48 run (Ferrara kick), 6:46. Second quarter MTSU-Dasher 3 run (kick blocked), 14:39. MTSU-McDonald 7 pass from Dasher (Gendreau kick), 13:06. Md-Meggett 1 run (Ferrara kick), 1:19. Third quarter Md-Smith 37 pass from Turner (Ferrara kick), 12:22. MTSU-Gee 6 run (Gendreau kick), 6:25. MTSU-FG Gendreau 27, :48. Fourth quarter Md-Smith 64 pass from Turner (Ferrara kick), 13:01. MTSU-Andrews 32 pass from Dasher (pass failed), 9:04. Md-FG Ferrara 42, 6:14. MTSU-FG Gendreau 19, :00. A-43,167.
First downs 22 18
Rushes-Yards 36-87 39-158
Passing 351 288
Cmp.-Att.-Int. 28-46-2 19-30-1
Return Yards 15 46
Punts-Avg. 8-35.1 5-40.6
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 4-3
Penalties-Yds. 5-40 4-25
Time of poss. 28:49 31:11
Rushing-Middle Tennessee, Kyles 10-34, Dasher 20-26, Gee 4-23, Beyah 1-4, Branton 1-0. Maryland, Scott 13-117, Meggett 18-51, Smith 1-13, Jackson 1-5, Robinson 1-3, D.Campbell 1-(minus 2), Turner 4-(minus 29). Passing-Middle Tennessee, Dasher 27-44-2-324, Gee 1-1-0-27, Team 0-1-0-0. Maryland, Turner 19-30-1-288. Receiving-Middle Tennessee, McClover 7-110, Honeycutt 5-57, Andrews 4-83, Beyah 2-32, Jefferson 2-21, McDonald 2-16, Gee 2-11, Kyles 2-8, Caldwell 1-7, Delle Donne 1-6. Maryland, Meggett 6-63, Smith 5-165, Boykins 2-27, T.Galt 2-18, Tyler 2-17, D.Campbell 1-5, Scott 1-(minus 7).
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
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