COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s seemingly endless quest for its elusive sixth victory will be extended for at least another week.
The Terrapins can only blame themselves for their latest misfire, a 20-3 loss to Syracuse on Saturday.
Two interceptions, two lost fumbles, several dropped passes and shoddy tackling all contributed to Maryland’s third straight loss and fourth in five games.
“Well, you don’t have a shot to win when you turn the ball over four times and you have as many dropped balls, as many errors as we did,” coach Randy Edsall. “We have the opportunities to make the plays and we didn’t make them.”
After going 4-0 in September, the Terrapins are now 5-4, 1-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They have been on the brink of becoming bowl eligible since beating Virginia on Oct. 12.
“It’s a tough position to be in, but the best thing we can do is stay prepared and stay positive,” nose tackle Darius Kilgo said. “All we can do is move forward from here.”
C.J. Brown went 21 for 40 for 211 yards and two interceptions for Maryland. He also lost a fumble and was sacked three times.
“I didn’t execute to my potential and I put our team in tough situations, so that falls back on me,” Brown said. “So it’s tough for me to go and try to get the guys going when I’m the problem, I was the one with the three turnovers today. That’s a tough situation. You can’t let that happen.”
Jerome Smith ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns for Syracuse. He scored from the 1 to end the first drive of the game and added a 21-yard TD with 10:33 left to put the Orange up by 17.
But credit for this one goes primarily on a defense that previously surrendered 48 points to Northwestern, 49 to Clemson and 56 to Georgia Tech.
“There were a lot of doubters out there, but we never doubted ourselves,” coach Scott Shafter said. “We got beat by a good Georgia Tech team a month ago. I’m so pleased with the job we did on the defensive side of the ball. I love the way they’re hitting.”
Durell Eskridge and Julian Whigham had interceptions for Syracuse, which also forced five fumbles. The Orange (5-4, 3-2) have allowed only three points in their last two games following the loss to Georgia Tech.
“The defense is amazing. We rely on them a lot,” said quarterback Terrel Hunt, who accounted for 67 of Syracuse’s 242 yards rushing. “We have faith on them that they’ll get a stop. We’re just really proud of the defense.”
Maryland’s lone score came in the third quarter, when Brad Craddock kicked a field goal to end a drive that was aided by several Syracuse penalties, including an offside call that eliminated a fumble recovery the Orange.
The field goal ended a run of 113 straight scoreless minutes by the Orange defense that began in the Georgia Tech game and included last week’s 13-0 win over Wake Forest. It also ended Syracuse’s bid to register consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1969.
That made it 13-3. In the fourth quarter, however, Hunt ran for 29 yards to set up Smith’s game-clinching touchdown jaunt.
Syracuse won despite being penalized 12 times for 115 yards and going 3 for 14 on third-down conversions.
“Nothing like fixing something after a win,” Shafer said.
The Orange outgained Maryland 267-141 before halftime and scored on their first and last drives to take a 10-0 lead.
Syracuse took the opening kickoff and launched a 16-play drive that consumed nearly eight minutes and featured a pair of fourth-down gambles, the last of which produced Smith’s first touchdown run.
The Terrapins converted a fourth-down try of their own late in the first quarter, but that only led to a missed field goal try by Craddock.
In the second quarter, a fumble by Smith started a run of five of six possessions that ended in turnovers, including three by Maryland — two interceptions by Brown and a fumble by Amba Etta-Tawo. Syracuse converted the last turnover into a 34-yard field goal by Ryan Norton.
“I thought we were well prepared and confident coming into the game,” Brown said. “But you have to come out and execute. We didn’t do that today.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)