The mantra for Maryland during the buildup to Tuesday’s Foster Farms Bowl matchup with Stanford centered on proving the doubters wrong, on showing it deserved more respect than what it received from odds makers and prognosticators.
Instead, this turned out to be the latest letdown against a high-caliber opponent and an ugly finish to a season that had so much promise.
As was the case in blowout losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State, the Terps were physically overmatched on both offense and defense in falling to Stanford, 45-21, before an announced crowd of 34,780 at Levi’s Stadium.
“The outcome wasn’t what we were looking for,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. “Give credit to Stanford. That’s a very fine football team, and the thing that we had is there were some opportunities there early.
“It was one of those games where we were going to have to do some scoring, and we just didn’t make [enough] plays on either side of the ball.”
This was a disaster for Maryland (7-6), the squandering of an opportunity to build on the momentum generated through a competitive first regular season as a member of the Big Ten and some recent success in recruiting.
After beginning the year 7-4, the Terps blew a 25-point lead in losing to Rutgers in their regular season finale and enter the offseason on the heels of Tuesday night’s debacle.
The Cardinal (8-5) outgained Maryland, 414-222, and led, 42-7, early in the fourth quarter.
“We knew that we were going to have to play at a very high level against Stanford in order to give ourselves an opportunity to win,” Edsall said. “We weren’t able to do that. But they’re a really good team.”
What is particularly troubling is the lopsidedness of the loss and how thoroughly the Terps were outplayed on each side of the ball.
After Maryland running back Wes Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run tied the score at 7 early in the second quarter, Stanford scored 35 straight points.
The Cardinal were in control enough that they began pulling their starters with more than 14 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
After surrendering 491 yards of total offense during Maryland’s 41-38 loss to Rutgers, the defense allowed Stanford to score touchdowns on four of its first five drives before adding 14 points during the third quarter.
Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan looked like former Stanford star and current Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck against the Terps’ defense in completing 14-of-20 passes for 189 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in three quarters.
Stanford also got 57 yards rushing and some highlight-reel-type runs from Darren Sproles-like freshman running back Christian McCaffrey, as well as 50 yards on seven carries from Hogan.
In all, the Cardinal ran for 206 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Senior running back Remound Wright had eight carries for 49 yards and three touchdowns. His second touchdown, a 3-yard run, gave Stanford a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. His third, a 1-yard run, pushed the Cardinal’s lead to 21-7 minutes later.
“We didn’t execute as well as we needed to,” Edsall said. “We didn’t trust our technique, and we had some communication problems on defense. We got caught one time when a couple guys were playing one coverage and other guys were playing a different coverage. So we had some errors there, and you can’t have those kinds of errors against a team like that.”
In his final college game, Terps quarterback C.J. Brown was 15-of-27 for 205 yards with an interception, faltering after beginning the game 8-of-13 for 109 yards.
Facing the nation’s second-ranked scoring defense, Maryland managed just 12 first downs, allowed six sacks and picked up just 47 yards on 14 carries by running backs.
Wide receivers also had several drops. Junior wide receiver Daniel Adams had two, including one during the first half on what could have produced a big play on third down.
“They’re the No. 2 defense for a reason,” Brown said. “You’ve got to give them credit. It wasn’t anything that we weren’t prepared for. I think going into the game that we had a very solid game-plan, and we were able to execute early on, and we fell apart a little bit.”
Maryland has a promising future with two recent high-profile verbal commitments and several other highly-rated local prospects interested in joining the Terps’ “hometown movement.”
“We aren’t where we need to be right now to compete with Stanford,” four-star defensive line commit Adam McLean tweeted Tuesday night, “but give it time.”
Still, Tuesday night was a step back and a sour end to a season that produced signature wins over Iowa, Penn State and Michigan.
Most Maryland players walked slowly back to the locker room after the loss, dejected looks present on many of their faces.
“I’m still taking it all in,” Brown said. “It’s been a long career, and I’m not reflecting, but I’m still trying to enjoy the moment. Obviously it was a tough loss for us as a team. But this is the last time this team will be together. And to see these seniors, it got emotional.”