The No. 1 Maryland men's lacrosse team's first-quarter performance against then-No. 8 Rutgers was the type of blistering start expected from the nation's top team. The Terps converted two extra-man opportunities and won three of the first five faceoffs en route to a 4-0 quarter.
Then, coach John Tillman's team self-destructed in the second period, allowing Rutgers to enter halftime tied because of a sloppy, error-filled 15 minutes that the Terps overcame to secure their fifth straight win, 11-10.
Still, as they eye a second-straight national championship, the Terps know the stumble was uncharacteristic of the types of teams competing for a title on Memorial Day weekend.
"There were so many self-inflicted wounds," Tillman said. "I don't know if I've ever been in a lacrosse game where someone had six penalties in a quarter. You can't expect to win many games doing that."
The Scarlet Knights' rally began less than a minute into the quarter with a goal from attackman Kieran Mullins. Then, the Terps' upped their aggression with a pushing foul on midfielder Roman Puglise with about 14 minutes remaining, putting the Terps a man down.
Rutgers didn't capitalize on that opportunity but continued to pressure Maryland's defense and, starting with about eight minutes remaining, scored four consecutive goals to level the score entering intermission.
Maryland's defense, which allowed an opponent to score 10 or more goals just five times this season entering the matchup, continued to be challenged. Mullins ended the half the same way he started it, finding the net to tie the game at five entering the intermission.
"We played a little bit slow in the first half," said midfielder Connor Kelly, who scored four goals and posted four assists. "Last week's Penn State game prepared us for this game."
Maryland struggled to secure possessions in the second quarter due to its six penalties, 1-for-7 faceoff mark and five turnovers. So, Kelly's unassisted score with about 13 minutes remaining before the half was Maryland's lone response to Rutgers' success.
Tillman said after the early faceoff violations, the Terps became too aggressive, which resulted in the numerous penalties.
"We can't put it on the weather," said goalkeeper Dan Morris. "Today was a tough day for us with stick work. We need to go back the next practice and dial it back in."
Sunday marked the first time the Terps allowed five goals in a quarter since their 13-11 win against Villanova on March 17. It was also the fourth time this season Maryland has allowed five goals in a quarter.
Then-No. 1 Albany used a 5-0 fourth quarter to beat the Terps, 11-10, on March 10. In their next two matchups, the Terps were outscored in the fourth quarter but had enough of a cushion to build a win streak.
Sunday, Maryland's strong first quarter prevented it from trailing before halftime and squeak by the Scarlet Knights with their third-straight conference win.
"Our defense was wearing down," Tillman said of the second-quarter stretch. "The offense was complementing them at times and possessing the ball. The late goals on shot clocks were key for us not only to get the goal, but the defense is catching its breath."