COLLEGE PARK — Sal Conaboy spoke so softly that the reporters surrounding him had to lean forward to hear.
Maryland had just lost, 20-3, to Syracuse on Saturday, and the Terps' starting center was sitting in the Gossett Football Team House auditorium and trying to piece together how the team lost for the fourth time in five games.
"It's hard to win games when you don't do your job up front," said Conaboy, a junior who has started every game this year.
There was plenty of blame to go around for Maryland, which had four turnovers. But the explanation for the loss seems to begin with the offensive and defensive lines.
Maryland's defense — which had been adept at penetrating the backfield when the season began — had zero sacks on Saturday. Through their first four games, the Terps had 16 sacks, placing them among the Football Bowl Subdivision leaders.
The defense also surrendered 242 rushing yards, more than any game except a 27-26 win over Virginia on Oct. 12, when the Terps also gave up 242 yards.
But it was Maryland's offensive struggles that Conaboy focused on. The Terps' offense may have been even more disappointing than the defense because Maryland had welcomed back quarterback C.J. Brown and running back Brandon Ross, who had been sidelined by injuries.
The offensive line surrendered three sacks for losses totaling 31 yards. The sacks were among seven plays in which Maryland — which rushed for 81 yards — lost ground.
The Terps' inability to run consistently has factored heavily into its three straight defeats. Maryland (5-4, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) remains one win shy of bowl eligibility with three contests left.
The Terps have won every game this season in which they have managed at least 100 rushing yards, and lost every game in which they fell short of that mark.
It's not just the running backs' fault. The offensive line has been rebuilt on the fly.
Last week, left tackle Mike Madaras abruptly left the program. Freshman Moise Larose was summoned to make his first start.
Saturday's offensive line starters included a freshman (Larose), a redshirt freshman who is a former walk-on (Michael Dunn), a redshirt sophomore (Ryan Doyle) a junior (Conaboy) and a redshirt senior who is a former defensive lineman (De'Onte Arnett).
"[Moise] is the best tackle we have, so he was out there," Edsall said. "He is going to get better. In his first start, I know there are some things he would like to do better and he'll get better, but it will be a learning experience for him. But those are the five best that we have and we just have to continue to work with them to make them better."
It doesn't get any easier for Maryland, which hasn't won a game after mid-October since the 2010 season.
Up next is a game at Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC), which leads the ACC in rushing defense (95.2 yards per game) and total defense (263.1 yards per game).