Based on Michigan’s results this season, there was some hope — however faint — of Maryland upsetting the Wolverines and going into its final home game against Penn State with a chance at becoming bowl eligible.
That pipe dream ended somewhere between a fake punt on which the Terps were improperly aligned and Michigan blocking one of Wade Lees’ punts despite rushing just two players. It quickly turned what had been a 14-0 deficit into a 28-0 deficit by halftime.
No matter how coach DJ Durkin tried to spin the second half and how Maryland had outscored (10-7), outgained (238-93) and outplayed the Wolverines, there is a harsh reality. Until the Terps can do that against a top Big Ten team in a first half and play a complete game, Durkin is not turning this program around.
Here are five things we learned from Maryland’s fifth loss in its last six games:
1. Ryan Brand has his limitations, but he gives Walt Bell’s offense a better chance to work than Max Bortenschlager or Caleb Henderson.
Though Brand couldn’t replicate his late drive magic against Rutgers for an entire game against a much better team, the redshirt sophomore walk-on showed both his maneuverability and his moxie against one of the nation’s top defenses.
The 5-foot-11 Brand is going to get passes knocked down, and his arm strength was a bit lacking at times on a cold, windy day, but he withstood a lot of pressure. He also took several big hits and overcame some early jitters to have a decent debut.
Just the possibility of Brand being able to run — something Durkin and Bell can’t afford him to do much given their dire quarterback situation — was enough to keep the Wolverines from going full bore after him as they have might have with either Bortenschlager or Henderson.
After a bit of a shaky start, Brand showed what having a mobile quarterback does for Bell’s offense. He was able to move around the pocket, getting sacked just once all day by a team that leads the Big Ten in sacks, and make plays.
Moore showed off his arm last year when he overthrew one of his teammates on long flea-flicker pass last season against Michigan State, so it wasn’t surprising to see his pass to Brand.
Then there was Moore’s first career punt.
You read that right — punt.
It’s not exactly clear what the play call was when Moore actually punted early in the second quarter, but you have to assume he had the option of running on the play.
A kicker and punter in high school, Moore’s 36-yarder was initially ruled to hit a Michigan player before it was reversed, with the officials saying that he was pushed into the ball by a Maryland player.
4. Injuries to offensive linemen gave a glimpse of what the future line might look like.
A lot has been made of the fact that aside from quarterback, the Terps have stayed remarkably healthy on offense this season, with the 10 other starters in for every game.
That may change for next week’s game at Michigan State if right tackle Damian Prince isn’t fully recovered from the injury that eventually took him out Saturday late in the first half.
The 6-3, 315-pound junior was replaced by 6-4, 294-pound freshman Marcus Minor, who got his most extensive playing time of the season and held his own against Michigan’s dominant defensive line.
Assuming Minor gets a little bigger by next season, as long as he maintains his athleticism, it will allow the Terps to be more effective running Bell’s version of the zone read.
The other injury Saturday wasn’t as significant, since right guard Terrance Davis was only out for a couple of plays after turning an ankle in the second half.
But it gave Durkin and offensive line coach Tyler Bowan a chance to put 6-1, 307-pound freshman Johnny Jordan at center, with junior Brendan Moore moving into Davis’ spot.
With the players coming in— led by four-star recruits Jaelyn Duncan (St. Frances) and Evan Gregory, as well as T.J. Bradley, one of the top junior college tackles in the country — the Terps should be able to start competing in the Big Ten trenches in the next couple of years.
5. Maryland Stadium will look even more like a miniature Beaver Stadium than M&T Bank Stadium did two years ago.
About the only reason Saturday's game drew a season-high crowd of 44,325 was the thousands of Michigan fans that came out. Not only did Maryland fans sell their seats, they also sold their parking spots, with just as much if not more maize-and-blue tailgating going on than red.
Wait until the Penn State game.
Kevin Anderson, Maryland’s athletic director-in-exile, was criticized heavily for putting the 2015 game in Baltimore and giving the Nittany Lions’ fans an even shorter trip down I-83.
The game that day — which came right after Randy Edsall was fired — drew nearly 70,000, with it being about 60-40 in favor of Penn State despite Maryland being the home team.
While much of the luster has been taken off Penn State’s season after recent losses to Ohio State and Iowa, the team’s fans are remarkably loyal and still travel better than nearly any school in the country.
Given that it’s Thanksgiving weekend and the Terps will likely be headed to a 4-8 record, Maryland fans can probably get decent money to sell their seats, parking spots and whatever else the Nittany Lion faithful will buy.