One game past the midpoint of DJ Durkin's second season at Maryland, the pure optimism of September has faded into the faint hope of October and is headed fast for the painful oblivion of November.
Before the Terps face the same kind of three-game gantlet they did a year ago, this time to close the season. the next two weeks provides a chance for Durkin whatever progress, if any, his team has made.
Can Maryland beat Indiana in a close game on homecoming on Saturday in College Park as the Hoosiers did to the Terps last year in Bloomington?
Is Rutgers, winner of two straight, passing Maryland on its way out of the basement of the Big Ten East or, as it appears, simply a byproduct of the league's unbalanced and seemingly uneven schedule?
To see where the Terps are headed for the remainder of the season, let's see where they just came from and the five things we learned from Saturday's 38-13 loss at Camp Randall Stadium.
1. You don't need a bunch of five-stars to become a nationally-ranked team.
When Maryland lost 62-14 at then No. 10 Ohio State a little over two weeks ago, much of the damage was done players who came to Columbus as some of the top high school prospects in the country.
The same can't be said for the Badgers.
Freshman Jonathan Taylor, the Big Ten's leading rusher, joined an elite group of running backs who reached 1,000 yards in their first seven games.
Taylor, who overcame an early fumble against the Terps to rush for 126 yards and a touchdown, was a 3-star recruit from a small New Jersey town who picked Wisconsin over Harvard.
Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who overcame an early interception to complete 16 of 24 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, was also a 3-star prospect coming out of high school.
It's what you do with the 3-stars after they get on campus.
Durkin and his staff, which brought in its share of 4-stars in their first full recruiting class and appears to be doing the same for 2018, have to be able to do what Randy Edsall and his staff couldn't.
There's enough of an indication that this will happen, given what junior running back Ty Johnson and junior wide receiver DJ Moore have done in their two years under Durkin and offensive coordinator Walt Bell.
There is similar progress being made on defense, especially in the secondary, where sophomore nickel back Antoine Brooks is emerging as a potential star.
2. For better or worse, Max Bortenschlager appears to be the quarterback for the remainder of the season.
There was some thought that the door had opened slightly for redshirt junior transfer Caleb Henderson when Bortenschlager was knocked out of the Ohio State game.
Henderson, who was the highest-rated high school prospect among all the team's quarterbacks, including Kasim Hill, didn't get to show much in his brief stint against the Buckeyes.
But when Bortenschlager was briefly sidelined the following week against Northwestern at home, the Terps ran two direct snap plays to Johnson. The same thing happened again Saturday for one play.
Bortenschlager recovered from his early pick-six — in his defense, he was hit as he threw and the ball took a crazy bounce off a Wisconsin player's shoulder — to have some good moments against the Badgers.
But the efficiency he showed in his first start at Minnesota on Sept. 30, when he completed 18 of 28 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, hasn't been there the past three games.
Since Minnesota, Bortenschlager has completed just 33 of 80 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns, including 13 of 30 for 125 yards, with a touchdown and an interception on Saturday.
3. This might be a good time for Durkin to burn some of those redshirts on the defensive line.
As much as Durkin insists he will use his best players no matter what the position, it appears that he doesn't plan on using true freshmen Cam Spence and Breyon Gaddy.
That's certainly to their benefit, but it's clear that the Terps need someone, anyone, who can get to the opposing team's quarterback. Maryland didn't have a sack for the fourth time in five games.
The defensive line started well, with junior Brett Kulka stripping Taylor inside Wisconsin's 5-yard line early in the game and helping Brooks make a couple of plays behind the line of scrimmage.
But as the game wore on, the Terps were clearly worn down by Wisconsin's huge offensive line. Reinforcements, especially those with the size of Spence and Gaddy, were needed.
4. Tight ends are 0 of 2017.
About the only time Avery Edwards was noticed against the Badgers was when the junior tight end was called for offensive pass interference in the first quarter.
It's one thing to count on your tight ends to pass protect and open holes for running backs, which is what is expected from Edwards and senior Derrick Hayward.
But to go seven games without a tight end catching a single pass?
After Hayward caught four passes for 17 yards and Edwards caught one for 23 in Durkin's first season, offensive coordinator Walt Bell promised in the preseason that the tight end would be used more this year as weapons.
It wouldn't be so glaring if it weren't for the fact that opposing tight ends have feasted on the Terps this season, the latest evidence coming from Wisconsin senior Troy Fumigalli, who caught seven passes for 83 yards.
Two years ago, Edwards caught 14 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He had a tough time getting on the field last year because of his blocking.
Durkin often says that everything he does has something to do with recruiting. Here's a question: if you're a tight end with aspirations of catching pass, would you keep the Terps on your list?
It's not that Bell's offense ignores the tight end. When Arkansas State had one of the nation's top offenses in 2015, tight ends caught 25 of the 207 completions for the Red Wolves, including a 40-yarder.
5. Kicker Henry Darmstadter continues to live the dream.
If there's a benefit to the Maryland offense continuing to struggle in the red zone — the Terps are tied for 102nd nationally and are ahead of just Iowa in the Big Ten — it's that it provides opportunity for Darmstadter.
The graduate transfer from Georgetown, who took over from senior Adam Greene (Broadneck) after the season-opening win at Texas, made both of his field goals against the Badgers.
The first was on a 23-yarder and came after the offense stalled following Taylor's fumble late in the first quarter. The second was on a 45-yarder late in the third quarter.
Since taking over against Towson, when he made a school-record nine extra points, Darmstadter has made four of five field-goal tries and all 20 PATs.
While it hasn't translated into any victories — though his career-best 51-yarder at Minnesota helped in a 31-24 win — it has certainly given the 5-7 kicker a lifetime of memories.