Maryland falls flat in 31-13 Senior Day loss to Virginia

Maryland safety Eric Franklin (Archbishop Curley) tackles wide receiver Kris Burd after a 6-yard gain in the first quarter.
Maryland safety Eric Franklin (Archbishop Curley) tackles wide receiver Kris Burd after a 6-yard gain in the first quarter.(Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron)

Twenty seconds. That's how long it took for Maryland's sunny-weather, Senior Day mood to be punctured as Virginia bolted to a touchdown on its first offensive play, producing a swift smattering of boos from Terps fans whose team has now lost five straight games.

Virginia's 31-13 victory Saturday contained many of the elements that have characterized Maryland's recent losses -- inconsistent tackling, errors (five turnovers) and a string of dropped passes that seemed to mystify the quarterbacks and coach Randy Edsall.

Maryland has made a habit of getting behind quickly -- but this seemed to set a land-speed record. Virginia running back Perry Jones burst off right tackle for a 47-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.

As Jones sailed into the end zone, Terps senior defensive tackle Maurice Hampton said he thought to himself: "Come on, really, guys? We've got to get it together." Safety Eric Franklin said he had a hold of Jones but was blocked off.

Hampton was among 15 Terps seniors honored under cloudless skies in a pre-game ceremony marking their final home contest. The seniors received pictures of themselves and framed "Maryland Pride" jerseys -- the splashy ones worn in the season-opening win over Miami, their last victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision team.

After Jones' initial run -- some in the announced crowd of 37,401 at Byrd Stadium had barely arrived -- Maryland rebounded to take a 13-7 lead.

But then the Terps (2-7, 1-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) collapsed. Virginia, behind Jones (22 carries, 139 yards) and quarterback Michael Rocco (23-for-35, 307 yards), scored 24 consecutive points.

The Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2), who became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007, rolled up 527 yards.

As the game moved deep into the second half, many spectators departed and the stadium was left strangely quiet. The loudest cheers came from the stadium corner where the orange-clad Virginia fans and their band sat.

Maryland was officially eliminated from the bowl picture and assured of a losing season in Edsall's first year at the school.

"It's something we never imagined," quarterback Danny O'Brien said. "We definitely didn't imagine [this in] preseason, but here we are. I think the worst thing about it was losing this game for the seniors."

O'Brien was asked whether the Terps, who have lost seven of their past eight games, were improving. The redshirt sophomore seemed to momentarily struggle with the question.

"In certain areas, we're getting better," O'Brien said, clearly trying to be upbeat. He later said, "I don't know if we're getting better or not" because the team has not won in more than a month.

Edsall had said Maryland had dropped eight passes in last week's loss to Boston College. The performance against Virginia seemed no better. "I don't know what else to do," he said. "We do ball drills during the week. We work on looking the ball in and going back to the ball."

O'Brien and C.J. Brown split time in the contest. O'Brien was 16-for-36 for 241 yards but threw two interceptions. Brown passed for just 28 yards and ran for 24 but led the team's only touchdown drive.

It came in the second quarter. After running for 25 yards on the previous play, Brown threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Devonte Campbell to put the Terps on top 10-7.

A 20-yard field goal by Nick Ferrara made it 13-7.

But Rocco found a wide-open Kevin Parks on a 35-yard touchdown pass, putting Virginia back in front 14-13 with 1:34 left before halftime.

"I think it was a missed assignment," Edsall said of the touchdown play.

Virginia drove 95 yards and held the ball for 5:56 its first possession of the second half, increasing the margin to 21-13.

The Cavaliers were led on defense by senior safety Rodney McLeod, who had three interceptions -- the first Virginia player with that many since 1996.

"I just had a magnet today," McLeod said.

Edsall said of the Terps: "We have to go and get better."

"I don't think that anyone checked out today," the coach said. "These young men know that we have Notre Dame next week, and we are going to play as hard as we can."

Franklin said it might lift the team knowing it will play such a well-known team as the Irish on national television at FedEx Field in Landover on Saturday night.

"It's a big game everybody will be watching," Franklin said.