Matt Canada hit all the points required when delivering an opening statement at a postgame press conference — he credited No. 12 Penn State while lamenting injuries and missed plays that amounted to the 38-3 season-ending loss.
Then, his voice hitched. He paused and repeated his sentiment with more vigor — “Really, really proud of our team” — before mentioning each staff unit that helped make this season function as normally as possible.
At times this year, that was an insurmountable task. The Terps ran onto the field at Beaver Stadium and played 60 minutes, because that’s what football teams do, but the events of the past six months made the finale an uphill battle far too steep.
Maryland ended the season with a dud rather than a roar. But to be on the field at all seemed worthy of remark for Canada, who has been the interim head coach since coach DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave and later fired.
Maryland has dealt with so much this year — the death of a teammate, two external investigations and the firing of its head coach — that even the chance of achieving bowl eligibility Saturday was an accomplishment.
“We lost our teammate, and to keep battling game-in and game-out,” defensive lineman Mbi Tanyi said, “I can’t say how proud I am of everybody that put effort in.”
Maryland’s effort was never in doubt. But against the Nittany Lions, there seemed to be fumes in the tank. The deep throws and breakaway runs that gashed then-No. 9 Ohio State last week in the 52-51 overtime loss were just off. Early in the first quarter, quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome lofted a ball downfield for wide receiver Jeshaun Jones, who reeled in the pass for a would-be third-down conversion.
But upon review, Jones’ foot was slightly out of bounds, wiping away the 25-yard completion and forcing the first of eight punts Saturday. And late in the second quarter, safety Antwaine Richardson picked off Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley along the sideline.
Again, though, Richardson’s interception was overturned because his foot touched the boundary, giving the ball back to the Nittany Lions and allowing a field goal before halftime.
The two near-misses, which didn’t play too big a role in the eventual outcome of the game, still irked Canada. He has led an up-and-down Terps offense all year, one that was explosive in some games but fell meekly in others. Saturday was another example of the latter category, and after a couple of breaks didn’t go Maryland’s way, Canada’s offense finished with three points.
“That was the key: Just staying together,” wide receiver Taivon Jacobs said. “Unfortunately, we came up short with some things, and some things we wish we could get back.”
Some of those deficiencies can be explained by mounting injuries. Offensive linemen Terrance Davis and Sean Christie missed the game, and running back Ty Johnson was also out. Anthony McFarland, who was a pivotal part of the Terps’ success against the Buckeyes, left injured early Saturday. Safety Darnell Savage was “out there playing basically on one leg,” Canada said.
Ultimately, Penn State was much better than Maryland, and full health probably wouldn’t have changed that. The Terps’ season ended, likely leaving the team rueing its losses to Temple and Indiana more so than the losses to blue bloods in the final two weeks.
Merely being in the position to have some painful losses, however, seemed to give Canada heart.
“I feel really frustrated we didn’t win,” Canada said. “You go all the way back to when this thing started … [and] you said you’re gonna play these games as close as we did and win five games, I bet everybody would’ve said no way. So, these kids deserve all the credit.”