The Maryland football team’s 2019 season is complete, as the Terps officially put a 3-9 record in the books with a loss at Michigan State Nov. 30. Head coach Michael Locksley’s first year in College Park, Md., started with a flourish, but Maryland closed the season with seven straight losses.
This was the closest of those defeats. Maryland took a second-half lead in East Lansing, Mich., and clung to it until the fourth quarter, when Michigan State kicked the tying and go-ahead field goals on successive possessions. The Terps, who had touchdowns of 44 and 63 yards to make the game close, couldn’t come through on one final drive.
While Maryland even giving itself a chance was a welcome surprise to Terps fans, this game carried some familiar storylines. Quarterback Josh Jackson went 11-of-27 for just 141 yards. Maryland was 1-of-11 on third down while Michigan State went 8-of-16. The Spartans held the ball for 37:53, won the turnover battle, 3-2, and led in sacks, 4-0.
After beating Howard, 79-0, and then-ranked Syracuse, 63-20, Maryland shot into the rankings for the first time in six years, coming in at No. 21 in the AP poll. The Terps then lost, 20-17, at Temple, and in a highly anticipated Friday night clash with Penn State, they got smashed, 59-0. Maryland picked up one more win against Rutgers, but crashed through the earth after that.
Sure, the schedule got tougher, but that alone doesn’t explain this type of nosedive. So what happened to the Terps? Here are a few places to start.
Injuries piled up quickly.
This is a familiar story at Maryland, but the 2019 Terps suffered these blows all across the roster. And it started before they even played a game.
Safety Antwaine Richardson tore his ACL in spring practice. Wide receiver Jeshaun Jones and edge rusher Durrell Nchami went down in fall camp. Running backs Jake Funk and Lorenzo Harrison III were lost for the season in September. Cornerback Tino Ellis suffered a season-ending injury in October. Offensive lineman Terrance Davis played just once in the final nine games, finishing the season with four appearances.
When there wasn’t a season-ending injury, there was usually still instability. Josh Jackson missed two games and didn’t seem to be 100 percent after returning. Tyrrell Pigrome, Tyler DeSue and Lance LeGendre all saw time under center, with LeGendre dislocating his shoulder against Nebraska. Star running back Anthony McFarland was bothered by injury all season, gaining just 614 yards even with a 134-yard performance against the Spartans (he had 1,034 last year). The defense leaned increasingly on freshmen as the season went on.
Players and coaches always reference a “next-man-up” mentality when discussing injuries. But the Terps simply didn’t have the depth to overcome all of them. And it showed.
Both lines struggled consistently.
Maryland lost a trio of three-year starting offensive linemen — Derwin Gray, Damian Prince and Brendan Moore — in the offseason, leaving the Terps with a much younger starting five this year. Sean Christie and Terrance Davis were familiar faces, while Johnny Jordan and Marcus Minor had some starting experience (left tackle Jaelyn Duncan was the lone first-time starter). But the group never gelled, and there wasn’t nearly enough depth after these five and the versatile Ellis McKennie, leaving the front line as the weakness of the offense.
That made life difficult for the quarterbacks, who rarely had enough time, and the running backs, who rarely had enough space. Maryland finished the season completing 50.3 percent of its passes and taking a Big Ten-most 38 sacks, and while the Terps averaged 4.8 yards per rush for the year, that number plummets to 4.1 after removing the first two contests.
On the other side of the ball, Maryland once again struggled to consistently pressure opposing passers. The Terps finished the year with 21 sacks, and that number is deceiving, as 12 of those came in the first two games. Linebacker Keandre Jones had seven sacks, but the defensive line combined for just 7.5 as a collective unit, and Brett Kulka was the only member of that group to record two.
Let’s just say that allowing the most sacks and recording the fewest sacks in the Big Ten isn’t helpful.
The Terps kept falling behind early and could never bounce back.
This trend started against Penn State, when Jackson threw a pick on Maryland’s first possession and the Nittany Lions wasted no time claiming a lead. With Penn State leading, 14-0, late in the first quarter, Maryland drove into the red zone only to be intercepted again. That was essentially the dagger, as the Terps never had another scoring opportunity that night.
Purdue jumped out to a 13-0 lead on the Terps Oct. 12, and after Maryland made it a 23-14 game, Pigrome threw a pick-six right before the end of the first half. The Terps didn’t put up any semblance of a fight in the second half of that game, or at any point against Michigan, Minnesota or Nebraska.
The other three losses, meanwhile, featured late-game failures. Maryland was stuffed eight times on goal-to-go opportunities against Temple. It had two chances to take the lead against Indiana and committed two turnovers. And after taking the lead against Michigan State, the Terps’ ensuing drives ended in a punt, a fumble and another punt.
The season ended with more devastation in East Lansing. With the season’s final chance, Jackson scrambled once and threw three incomplete passes. He threw it away on third down and watched as tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo dropped the ball on first and fourth down. When Jackson joined the Terps in May, the redshirt junior was as hyped as any Terps quarterback addition this decade. Now it’s unclear if he’ll even start — or be around — when Maryland takes the field next year.
Locksley and Maryland will face some difficult questions this offseason. Only 11 seniors are definitely out of eligibility, but there’s reason to expect plenty of roster turnover in the coming months. With Locksley planning to hold exit meetings in the next couple days, changes might come quickly.
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