In Maryland’s first two defeats this season, interim head coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada blamed himself a lot more than the players for his team’s struggles.
Though he didn’t tear into the Terps for their mistakes and overall sloppiness in Saturday’s 23-0 defeat to No. 19 Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, it was obvious that Canada was not happy, especially with the offense.
While crediting the Hawkeyes for the Big Ten’s first shutout this season, Canada was blunt about of an offense that accounted for a season-low 115 yards and only oncer made it past the 50-yard line.
“You have to make plays, that’s what it’s all about,” Canada said. “We didn’t make enough on offense. I’m very proud of how hard our defense played and they held them to 16 points. It just wasn’t a very good day for us on offense, clearly.”
In getting shut out for the first time since a 28-0 home defeat to Michigan in 2015, Maryland (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) didn’t make it over 100 yards until a 16-yard run in the game’s final minute by sophomore Javon Leake, who finished as his team’s leading rusher despite making only one carry.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Kasim Hill completed just six passes on 15 attempts for 47 yards, but had three of his throws dropped. Backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome also had a pass dropped and saw a third-quarter fumble turn into a touchdown for Iowa (6-1, 3-1).
With Maryland trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Hill floated a catchable pass for what would have been about a 40-yard reception by freshman Dontay Demus, who dropped it as he came down. With the Terps down 6-0 after another short field goal, Hill threw his third interception of the season as freshman Brian Cobbs ran a sloppy route.
“As a quarterback, sometimes you throw a bad ball and a guy makes a great catch and you have to realize you threw a bad ball,” Canada said. “Sometimes you go throw a good ball and he doesn’t catch it. Every play is the next play. Our mind is the most powerful thing in our body. If you don’t see yourself making a play, then you don’t make it.”
Asked how he felt as the offensive coordinator, Canada said, “Not very good. I think it’s the second time it’s happened.”
Canada was referring to the number of times an offense he has coached has been shut out. The first time came when he was at North Carolina State in 2014, and the Wolfpack were blanked by Clemson, 41-0.
There was a difference Saturday: Until late in the first half, the game still seemed winnable.
After Maryland’s defense ended the game’s first possession with an interception by graduate linebacker Tre Watson, the Terps only gave up chip-shot field goals to end sustained drives — until Iowa’s final drive of the second quarter.
The first field goal came after Iowa’s longest drive of the season in terms of plays (17) and time of possession (9:04).
But the amount of time spent on the field eventually wore down Maryland.
“You can draw positives from holding them to field goals,” Terps senior linebacker Jesse Aniebonam said. “Holding them to field goals is better than them getting seven [points]. But at the end of the day, if we’re on the field that long, that wear and tear is going to wear on us throughout the game.”
Said Watson, who led Maryland with 15 tackles: “If you play that many plays, it’s going to wear on you no matter how well-conditioned you are. They made some plays in some crucial situations that we failed to make. That puts you in a bad spot throughout the game.”
For the game, Iowa ran 76 plays to just 39 for Maryland. The Hawkeyes had possession for 40:55 to 19:05 for the Terps, including a wildly disparate margin of 13:55 to 1:05 in the opening quarter.
“Obviously we didn’t play on offense with the same soundness,” Canada said. “We only had three [full] drives in the first half. The first one ended in a bad snap, the second one started with a penalty and the third ended with a turnover.”
Asked about the challenge of calling the right plays when your team has only 39 offensive snaps, a frustrated Canada said, “There’s nobody ever planning on having 39 plays on offense, right?”
Along with Hill’s interception, Pigrome’s fumble occurred after he collided with Cobbs on a botched jet sweep that started at the Maryland 10 late in the third quarter. The ball ricocheted into the end zone, where junior defensive end Anthony Nelson recovered it for a touchdown
Of the botched handoff, Canada said, “Completely unacceptable and disappointing, which is too bad for defense.”
The game — Maryland’s second straight away from College Park before an announced sellout crowd on its opponent’s homecoming day — was affected by blustery conditions, with winds whipping at more than 30 mph.
“The weather mattered today and both teams had to play in it, but they obviously managed it better than we did,” Canada said.
It was not totally on Maryland’s offense. The defense let the Hawkeyes gain 224 rushing yards on 52 attempts — including 98 on 24 carries by sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin — and convert nine of 18 chances on third down as well as three of four on fourth down.
“Our objective is to get off the field on third downs,” Watson said. “Unfortunately — we understand when those long drives happen, that’s because we failed to do that and that falls back on us.
“Sure, offense getting first downs gives you breaks between them, but if we get ourselves off the field we’ll be in a better position throughout the game. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”
Still needing two wins to become bowl eligible, Maryland returns to College Park for its next two games, Saturday against Illinois and Nov. 3 against Michigan State. If Maryland has been anything this season, it’s resilient.
But this week, the Terps could also have some unwanted distractions.
The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents will meet Tuesday in Baltimore to discuss the findings of an eight-person commission looking into allegations of a toxic football culture under third-year coach DJ Durkin, who remains on administrative leave.
In a statement Thursday, the Board of Regents said it could release those findings within a week of Tuesday.
Asked how challenging it could be not knowing what will be announced and when, Canada said, “I think there’s a million answers to that question. I appreciate that question. The answer is, we’re going to get up tomorrow. We’re going to worry about the football game that we just lost. I’m going to do the best job I can do, which today wasn’t very good.
“But I’ll be better tomorrow and our kids are going to stick together tomorrow. We’re going to practice tomorrow. We’re going to turn the music up. We’re going to condition a little bit. Monday, they’re going to go to class. Monday, we’re going to come up with a better plan than we did today and that’s the answer.”
A reporter wanted to know what music the Terps will choose to help them prepare for their next game.
‘I don’t know,” Canada said, smiling for the first time. “Hopefully something I like. I might pick the music. That’s a great point.”