It was the promising start on a gorgeous day that the Maryland football team had searched for during its seven-game losing streak: three touchdowns and defensive stops in the first 10 minutes of its game against a high-octane Indiana offense.
The Terps wanted to send their seniors out with a victory in one final game at Byrd Stadium, a positive in a season full of negatives.
Finally, things were starting to round into form, with the offense matching the defense's performance and providing an early lead.
But as has happened time and again during a lost season, Maryland couldn't hold strong for a full four quarters, losing for the eighth straight time. Indiana overtook the Terps quickly and decisively, coming back for a 47-28 victory before an announced 33,685.
After quarterback Caleb Rowe's 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Malcolm Culmer gave Maryland (2-9, 0-7 Big Ten Conference) a 21-3 lead with 5:32 left in the first quarter, Indiana (5-6, 1-6) outscored the Terps 44-7.
"It's not like we really even got panicked," said running back Brandon Ross, who rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns. "It was just, I don't know. When they scored two touchdowns after we was up 21-3, they scored them within five minutes, it seemed like. We just didn't counter the way we should have. It was just kind of like we thought the game was over when we got up that much. We just didn't keep playing the way we were in the first quarter, and that's really what set us back."
Maryland's brightest spot was Ross, a senior playing in his final home game. His career-high 250 yards — the fourth most in program history — and three touchdowns came on just 19 carries. On Maryland's second play from scrimmage, Ross gave the Terps a 7-3 lead with a 79-yard touchdown. He bumped Maryland's lead to 14-3 with a 22-yard run later in the quarter.
"I just saw huge holes," said Ross, the first player in program history to rush for 250 yards and three touchdowns in one game. "That's it. I've got to give all the credit to the line, of course. They was opening them up all game, and the wideouts as well. I was just following their blocks."
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue set Maryland's single-season sacks record when he hit Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld from behind and forced a fumble in the first quarter. The sack gave him 13 1/2 this season and put the Terps in prime field position, which they took advantage of with Rowe's touchdown pass to Culmer.
From there, the Hoosiers rolled and the Terps sputtered. Sudfeld passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another score, while kicker Griffin Oakes added two more field goals to give Indiana a 30-21 halftime lead.
Rowe, who was starting for junior Perry Hills (mononucleosis), was knocked out of the game with a concussion late in the first half, replaced by sophomore Shane Cockerille (Gilman). Indiana added another defender to the box to stop Cockerille and Ross in the running game, and the Hoosiers forced the Terps to punt five times in the second half. Cockerille and Rowe combined to finish 21-for-41 for 170 passing yards and a score.
Ross got loose for a 75-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter to bring the Terps within 30-28, but Indiana always seemed to have a counter.
The Hoosiers scored on three of their first four possessions in the second half, and Sudfeld finished 23-for-35 for 385 yards and five total touchdowns, and hit wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. nine times for 192 yards.
After Hoosiers running back Jordan Howard, the Big Ten's leading rusher, exited with a knee injury during the game's first drive, backup running back Devine Redding rushed 24 times for 134 yards.
"Everybody knows that we're really aggressive on defense," interim coach Mike Locksley said. "That's something that we want to be and we wanted to do, and it's been successful for us. Nate hit some big passes for them in the second quarter. They took advantage of some man-coverage opportunities, and plays that we've made the last few weeks, we didn't make today."
Maryland's dreams of bowl eligibility were dashed in a loss to No. 25 Wisconsin two weeks ago, so the Terps have been playing for pride, for Locksley, for each other. Saturday, they were playing for the seniors, a class filled with constants and contributors. And once again, the team came up short.
"It is sad, because a lot of the underclassmen were teary-eyed and stuff," Ross said. "They wanted to get a win for the seniors going out, so a lot of people were kind of upset about it. We still got one game left and a great opportunity to get a win, so we just got to get ready for that one."