One look at the debut schedule for the Maryland Terrapins and almost everyone wrote them off from bowl eligibility at the least (myself included). Given a schedule that featured cross-division games against Iowa and Wisconsin, along with Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State the path to six wins was not easy to see.
Yet, the Terps navigated the best the Big Ten schedule makers could throw at them and came out on the other side with 15 extra practices and a bowl game berth to boot.
Let’s just say 2014 was surprising, but just how did that 6-7 season go down? Let’s take a look back to hopefully learn where the Terps are heading entering year two of Big Ten play.
Tempting as it is to mention the shocking 38-31 win over Iowa, there’s no way we could talk about the 2014 season without giving a shout out to Maryland uniform supplier, Under Armour.
As the Terps prepared to take on old rival West Virginia, it got a boost in the form of perhaps the most patriotic and well-done one-off uniforms in recent memory. To mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, the Terps wore uniforms that were not just red, white and blue, but also included the words to the famous Francis Scott Key poem titled “The Star Spangled Banner” that would later become the national anthem.
In a season in which the Terps shocked the Big Ten world by not having a losing entrance to the Big Ten, the uniforms in a non-conference games were perhaps the best moment of the season.
If there was one reality that Maryland learned the hard way it was that winning in the Big Ten still means being able to run the football. The Terps finished their first season in the conference ranking 12th in rushing offense, averaging 121.8 yards per game.
Additionally, the 21 touchdowns scored on the ground were just eighth in the conference as well. Dig deeper in to the numbers and Maryland’s rushing stats get downright sad. In Big Ten games only, Maryland put up just 114.5 yards per game and were 13th in the 14-team league. Of the 21 touchdowns scored on the ground in the 2014 season, just 12 were scored in the eight conference contests.
When you look at the best defenses the Big Ten had to offer (Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin), the Terps scored just three total touchdowns and never topped the 100-yard mark as a team on the ground. Maryland managed just six yards rushing against MSU, 33 against Penn State and 46 against Wisconsin in a three game stretch that saw them rack up less than 100 yards total.
No way Randy Edsall’s team can expect to get out of mediocrity in Big Ten football if it can’t establish even a semblance of a meaningful run game in conference play.
While it is very tempting to talk about the Terps’ butt-kicking in the Foster Farms Bowl out in San Francisco, few if any didn’t see that coming. As a result we’re going elsewhere, but also perhaps equally predictable — that fourth quarter collapse against Rutgers.
Maryland had a seemingly insurmountable 35-10 lead with 2:52 to go in the first half after scoring three unanswered touchdowns. However, cracks began to be shown as the Terps defense let up late in the half and it was 35-17 game at the half because of a late Rutgers TD.
Regrouping didn’t happen at the half, but a collapse did and it cost Maryland a perhaps much better matchup with North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl. After being down 35-10, it was three unanswered touchdowns by Rutgers and over 347 yards of passing offense against the supposed strength of Maryland’s defense in 2014.
The collapse to end the 2014 season, including the embarrassment of the loss to Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl is not the way anyone wants to head in to an offseason but it is what the Terps must overcome heading in to 2015.