Early in the fourth quarter, Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt dropped back and surveyed the field on third and 5 from near midfield. The Terrapins football defense parted before him, and Hunt broke off a long scramble deep into Terps territory. One play later, running back Jerome Smith ran unchallenged into the end zone for a touchdown to put the Orange up, 20-3.
That was the dagger for the Terps, whose slide continued before an announced 37, 231 at Byrd Stadium on Saturday. The Terps turned in another listless performance and lost for the fourth time in five games, 20-3.
"You don’t have a shot to win when you turn the ball over four times and you have as many dropped balls and as many errors as we did," coach Randy Edsall said. "[We had] the opportunities to make the plays, and we didn’t make them."
Syracuse got off to a fast start, taking the opening kickoff 80 yards downfield on 16 plays for an early 7-0 lead. Smith rushed eight times for 30 yards, including a one-yard touchdown dive, and Hunt completed all six of his passes on the drive for 49 yards.
After that, neither team could get anything going, as turnovers and miscues marred the rest of the first half. The Terps advanced into Orange territory four times on their first five drives and came away with zero points. But the Terps did turn the ball over three times.
"It gets frustrating when you see things not going the way you want them to out there, and you’re sitting there: What can I do to help? Can I do something to get them over the hump? That sort of thing," Edsall said. "And that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to make adjustments the whole time."
Quarterback C.J. Brown took a 13-yard sack on the team’s opening possession. Kicker Brad Craddock missed a 42-yard field goal attempt left early in the second quarter. After driving to the Syracuse 28 after the Orange fumbled in Terps territory, Brown threw an interception to defensive back Durell Eskridge in the end zone.
On their next possession after cornerback Will Likely recorded his first interception, running back Brandon Ross fumbled at the Syracuse 28-yard line. And with less than two minutes left in the half, wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo fumbled after catching a pass from Brown.
"They didn’t really do anything different than what we prepared for," Edsall said. "They had one new blitz that they came in with, but all the things that we saw, we just, we weren’t able to block some of it and make the calls that we needed to make to take care of it, but again, it gets us back to your basic fundamentals and executing technique."
Syracuse, which turned the ball over twice in the first half, turned the final Terps turnover into three points and entered halftime with a 10-0 lead.
In the second half, little changed.
The Terps lost a fumble on a bad exchange between Brown and center Sal Conaboy on their opening possession, and the Orange bumped their lead up to 13-0. After the teams traded punts, the Terps drove to the Syracuse 5-yard line but were stopped. Craddock’s field goal cut the deficit to 13-3.
Syracuse put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter on Smith’s rumble up the middle for his second touchdown of the game.
Smith paced the Syracuse offense, rushing for 118 yards on 28 carries. Hunt was an efficient 15-of-24 for 140 yards and one interception while rushing for 67 yards. The Orange were also penalized 12 times for 115 yards, but the Terps couldn’t take advantage.
"It’s definitely frustrating," nose tackle Darius Kilgo said. "When we have as many turnovers as we did, it’s hard to win a game. As a defense, all we could do is go out there and keep playing and trying to get even more turnovers to give the offense a chance. That’s the only thing we could do at that point in time."
Brown, playing for the first time since Oct. 19 at Wake Forest, was 21-of-40 for 211 yards and two interceptions. He gained only five yards rushing. Ross, who also played for the first time since the Wake Forest loss, gained 54 yards on 15 carries. Etta-Tawo posted a career-high 109 receiving yards on six catches. Wide receiver Levern Jacobs, who had a career day against Clemson, caught six passes but for only 25 yards. His long reception was seven yards.
The Terps are 0-16 after Oct. 13 under Edsall, and the Terps fell to 2-8 when wearing variations of their Maryland Pride jerseys. The Terps have three games remaining — at Virginia Tech, vs. Boston College and at N.C. State — to clinch bowl eligibility.
"It’s a tough position to be in, but the best thing we can do is stay prepared, stay positive," Kilgo said. "All we can do is move forward from here."