Interceptions have haunted Maryland's offense this entire season, not just during the Terps' current five-game losing streak.
But early in Maryland's 31-15 loss at No. 10 Iowa on Saturday, it was a fumble that squashed the Terps' momentum and kicked off another day of turnover woes in another loss when running back Brandon Ross lost the ball in Hawkeyes territory after an 8-yard run.
Maryland turned the ball over four times Saturday, the fourth time in eight games the Terps have had that many. And they allowed 14 points off those turnovers, the fifth time they've allowed their opponent to score at least that many points after giving the ball over.
Through eight games, Maryland ranks last out of 127 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in turnovers (28), interceptions (23) and turnover margin (minus-16). The Terps haven't been stung as much by fumbles — Ross worked in the offseason on protecting the ball — and tied for 49th nationally with five fumbles lost. But Ross' miscue still came at a crucial time and helped kill Maryland's early momentum.
"What we told Brandon in terms of protecting the football, when you're in the second level or what we call the 'trouble zone,' you've got to put two hands over the football," interim coach Mike Locksley said in his Sunday conference call. "On the first fumble, those type of plays for a team like us right now when we have some good things going and it's at the end of an eight-yard run to get the ball knocked out of there, he's got to put his off hand over the ball to protect it."
Once opposing offenses get the ball from the Terps, the defense has struggled to get them off the field. Maryland has allowed 127 points off turnovers this season and has only one game — the season opener against Richmond — where the other team wasn't able to turn a miscue into points.
Maryland is allowing 15.9 points off turnovers per game this season while turning the ball over an average of 31/2 times per game. Bowling Green scored 42 of its 48 points off turnovers in the Falcons' win over the Terps in September. West Virginia scored 20 of its 45 points off turnovers. Michigan and South Florida each scored more than half their points off Maryland turnovers.
"It's a team game," defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson said Saturday. "We come here to play football. We come here to play defense. So if they turn it over, we got to make the stop. I'm pretty sure Alabama, they make stops. If we want to be up there on that level, we got to make stops. It's no excuse. They turn it over, we get the ball back for them."
The Maryland offense has struggled with its production at times this season, and often times, it hasn't even had a chance to get moving before turning the ball over. On 13 of 28 turnovers, Maryland hasn't gained 10 yards before losing the ball. On 17 turnovers, the offense has gained 20 yards or less before coughing it up.
The message from Locksley and the coaching staff to the offense this season has been ball security. And moving forward, they'll continue to preach it to the Terps.
"Protecting the football is priority No. 1," Locksley said Sunday. "We continue to not take care of the football and we'll continue to stress it, whether it be interceptions or fumbles."
Latest College Sports