After upsetting then-No. 23 Texas in its season opener, the Maryland football team's chances of becoming bowl eligible appeared realistic. Even dreams of reaching the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2013 looked feasible.
With Towson, Central Florida and Minnesota next on the schedule, many fans believed the Terps could begin the year 4-0.
But those hopes crashed in Saturday afternoon's meltdown against Central Florida. The Knights bested the Terps in every facet during a 38-10 victory, and quarterback Kasim Hill left with an apparent leg injury.
Maryland needed a victory to maintain its promising postseason position. Now, entering a difficult Big Ten slate, reaching six wins seems a challenge.
"It's deflating, but it's not as deflating as it can be because we still have all our goals in front of us," linebacker Jermaine Carter said. "We start Big Ten play this week. We're 0-0 in the Big Ten. We start fresh."
Maryland planned arguably the toughest schedule in the country this season, with five games against teams in the preseason top 25.
Through the first two weeks, the Terps' offense looked good enough to compete with those squads. Maryland put up 51 points on the Longhorns, and Hill appeared a capable replacement after quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
The Terps entered their contest against Central Florida averaging more than 500 yards per game. Their momentum came to a sudden halt, as they managed just 197 yards Saturday.
"When someone goes down, the next guy comes in, but it's also about the guys around them to step up and elevate their level of play," Durkin said. "We did not do that today, and that's why you saw the score you saw."
After Hill exited in the first quarter, Maryland looked like the team that went 6-7 last season. That spells trouble given the squad's looming Big Ten matchups.
Four of the Terps' remaining foes — Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State — are ranked in the top 10.
Barring an unlikely upset, Maryland has four more winnable games: Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana and Rutgers. The Terps would need to take all of those contests to be bowl eligible.
If Hill's injury isn't too serious, running the table against the conference's weaker teams seems possible. But if quarterback Max Bortenschlager is asked to start for the rest of the year, making a bowl game would be a tall task.
Bortenschlager threw 15-for-26 for 132 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions as Hill's replacement Saturday.
"He played his heart out," running back Ty Johnson said. "It's kind of rough being thrown into a situation like that."
Bortenschlager's grit may not be enough for the Terps to return to the postseason. The sophomore has started once in his career, completing 48 percent of his passes during Maryland's loss to Nebraska last season.
There's a chance Caleb Henderson, who seemed to be the frontrunner for the quarterback job during the spring, returns from his foot injury and leads the Terps to the playoffs. But his status is uncertain, and the Maryland faithful hasn't seen the junior's potential after he transferred from North Carolina in August 2016.
It wouldn't be a complete disaster if Maryland fails to qualify for a bowl game. The Terps' freshman class is full of talent, and the team will bring in a top-20 recruiting class in 2018.
But for a team that started with so much promise, missing the playoffs would be a wasted opportunity to take another step with a rebuilding program.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this column said Caleb Henderson transferred from North Carolina this past offseason. He transferred in August 2016. This column has been updated.