Maryland interim coach Matt Canada and his players have kept the mantra for months that each week is a new season.
That tactic can work, except when this week’s opponent for the Terps was Indiana and the last two games are against Ohio State at home and Penn State on the road. For Maryland, Saturday's game at chilly Memorial Stadium was potentially its season.
Barring any upsets the rest of the way, a long and emotional season will likely end without a bowl bid for the Terps.
After storming back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit behind backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome and redshirt freshman running back Anthony McFarland Jr. to take the lead with less than five minutes left, Maryland lost, 34-32, on a 42-yard field goal by junior kicker Logan Justus with 2:32 remaining.
Given the injuries sustained — several players, including starting quarterback Kasim Hill and senior running back Ty Johnson, were forced out — and the chance of becoming bowl-eligible eluding Maryland (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) for a second straight week, it might have been the most difficult defeat of the season.
Indiana (5-5, 2-5) broke a four-game losing streak behind sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who completed 16 of 28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a 35-yard touchdown in the second quarter to a erase a 6-0 Terps lead.
“Every loss is extremely tough. Obviously we’re in this moment right now, so yeah it is,” said graduate linebacker Tre Watson, who led Maryland with seven tackles and his fifth interception of the season. “Knowing how close we were, knowing the play we wish some guys can have back — I feel personably responsible for points that were the difference in the game — it’s extremely tough.
“That’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to sit with that for however long a period of time we’re sitting there knowing that we didn’t do what we felt we could’ve done to win the game.”
After Pigrome found freshman wide receiver Jeshaun Jones for a 15-yard touchdown on second-and-goal with 4:54 left to put the Terps ahead, 32-31, sophomore running back Tayon Fleet-Davis was stopped short of the goal line on the 2-point conversion attempt.
A kickoff return to the Indiana 40 and a 27-yard run by freshman Stevie Scott set up Justus’ go-ahead kick. Pigrome then got the Terps to midfield on a 21-yard pass to freshman receiver Dontay Demus, but after Indiana coach Tom Allen called timeout with 1:26 left, the redshirt sophomore quarterback fumbled.
“We had an opportunity as a defense, and it was in our control, and unfortunately we failed,” Watson said. “Like I said, I feel personably responsible for part of that. That makes it even more tough, knowing that the offense had been doing so well moving the ball down the field and a tough play happens.
“Unfortunately, when it gets to that last-ditch effort, sometimes you scramble and sometimes that puts you in an unfortunate position. Like I said, myself and the defense feel that we should have done more. We had a lead with only couple of minutes left and we gave up a big run that we hadn’t really given up the entire game.”
It was the fourth turnover of the day for the Terps, two of which led to Indiana touchdowns in the second quarter, when Maryland’s early 6-0 lead turn into a 21-6 deficit. Trailing by only six, 21-15, at halftime, Maryland found itself down 31-15 in the third quarter.
Watson was asked if the resilience the Terps have demonstrated throughout the five-plus months since offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death was evident again Saturday.
“Absolutely. None of those guys out there were going to lay down and quit,” Watson said. “That’s absolutely a trait that everyone in that locker room has and it has allowed us to overcome everything that has come to this point.”
Maryland ill-fated comeback began shortly after Hill, who missed the last nine games of his freshman year with a torn right ACL, left the game with what appeared to be a left leg injury.
Pigrome, who suffered a torn ACL in last year’s season-opening win at Texas, ran for a first down on his first snap and proceeded to lead Maryland back into the game. Unlike Hill, who struggled again before getting hurt by completing just four of 12 passes for 43 yards and an interception, Pigrome completed 10 of 13 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought Pig made some good plays and then he left some plays [on the field],” Canada said. “He came in, he was ready to play, excited to play. Proud of him for that. The quarterback is part of the deal. The ball is in your hands. When you’re out there, the ball is in your hands. But he was ready to play.”
Said redshirt freshman running back Anthony McFarland Jr.: “He was good in the huddle. As soon as he came in, he got everybody going. He got in the huddle and said, ‘Guys, let’s go.’ I feel like Pig had a helluva game as soon as he came in. I’m proud of him.”
So did McFarland, who rushed for a career-high 210 yards on 29 carries, breaking the school’s single-game freshman rushing record as well as LaMont Jordan’s single-season freshman rushing record.
But it was the mistakes — fumbles by Pigrome, McFarland and Fleet-Davis as well as Hill’s interception — that proved costly. As did Maryland’s 10 penalties for 93 yards, several of them coming at critical times both on offense and defense.
Freshman kicker Joseph Petrino made all four of his field-goal attempts — improving to 10-for-10 on the season — but missed his first extra point of the season after a false start made it less than a routine boot.
Maryland dominated statistically — in yardage (542-374), first downs (27-18), plays from scrimmage (84-58) and time of possession (39:18-20:42) — but had breakdowns that turned touchdowns into field goals and turnovers into touchdowns for the Hoosiers.
Canada was not going to use the injuries to Hill, Johnson and sophomore running back Javon Leake as an excuse for his team’s loss. Leake’s injury came shortly after he ran a kickoff back 47 yards and then ran for a 27-yard touchdown. Canada was happy to hear his players not making any excuses either.
“It’s kind of where we’re at as a football team. That’s where you want to be,” Canada said. “You want people to say, ‘I could have been better,’ versus, ‘It’s all your fault.’ With everything’s that’s happened, it’s very easy to listen to everybody and say it’s somebody else’s fault.
“The fact that our guys are saying, ‘I could have done this better.’ Our locker room was disappointed, but they all realized they could have played better. That’s what’s hard, but that’s what’s part of our game. So I'm proud of them.”
Canada and his players aren’t ready to give up on the goal of becoming bowl-eligible, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds of beating the No. 10 Buckeyes in College Park next week or the No. 20 Nittany Lions in Happy Valley on Nov. 24.
“We’re not naive. We understand what people are going to say,” Canada said. “Everybody’s been talking about us all year, all kind of things. This isn’t the last game of the season. Oh my gosh, we wanted to win today, because it was the next game. We didn’t win. We’ve got two more.”