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Deflating loss diminishes Terps' bowl status, but not their first Big Ten season

There was a lot at stake on Saturday at Byrd Stadium and everybody knew it. The Maryland Terrapins were in a position to improve their bowl status with a victory over Rutgers and -- for most of the first half -- it looked like they would do that without much resistance from the Scarlet Knights.

Then the roof caved in and the feel-good atmosphere at Senior Day suddenly evaporated in a 41-38 loss that likely pushed the Terps well down the bowl game pecking order.

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"It hurts ... hurts a lot,'' said head coach Randy Edsall. "No doubt about that, but it’s not going to take away from the other things that this group of guys accomplished this year, because we accomplished some things that nobody thought we could accomplish."

They certainly did. They held their own in their inaugural Big Ten season and became bowl-eligible after just nine games. They took some beatings from the three elite teams in the conference, but scored a big home victory over Iowa and road wins over Penn State and Michigan.

So, when they took a 35-10 lead late in the first half and stopped Rutgers on downs, it looked like this was going to be a huge blowout and a ticket to a warm-weather bowl game. Instead, a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a punt attempt allowed the Knights to keep the football and drive for a touchdown in the final seconds of the half.

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The momentum shifted completely at the start of the second half when the Terps kickoff unit allowed a long return and Rutgers quickly made it an 11-point game. After that, the Maryland defense had no answer for quarterback Gary Nova, who completed 14 of 16 passes for 196 yards as the Knights outscored the Terps 31-3 the rest of the way.

The turnaround was so dramatic, Edsall said that he couldn't remember being involved in anything like it.

"No, I don't remember anything like that and, you know, again, I thought where it started to change a little bit was when we got the roughing the punter call and then we come out in the second half and give up the big return,'' he said. "We were having trouble. They were taking up time and we hurt ourselves with some penalties on offense that set us back and we kind of just lost the momentum and had a tough time getting it back."

The Terps will find out soon who they will play and where they will go for their bowl game. They had a shot at the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., (formerly the Gator Bowl), but now appear likely to end up in a less-desirable bowl such as the Foster Farms Bowl in the San Francisco area or the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.

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Wherever they go, they'll have a chance to wipe away the memory of Saturday's deflating loss and improve to 8-5, which would be a far better outcome than anyone had a right to expect when the season began.

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