Orange plagued by mistakes, failed opportunities in loss to Maryland

The SU offense piled up 589 yards, but a pair of turnovers and special-teams blunders proved costly.

Playing in front of an announced crowd of 40,511 and looking to go 3-0 for the first time since 1991, Syracuse just couldn’t get out of its own way.

Numerous drive-stalling penalties, dropped interceptions and poor plays on special teams doomed the Orange in a disappointing 34-20 loss to the Maryland Terrapins at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

Fumbling the ball was partially why The Orange fell to The Terrapins during Saturday's home game.

The Orange committed eight penalties for a total of 69 yards. Defensive tackle Eric Crume and defensive back Darius Kelly both dropped would-be interceptions that could have swung momentum in Syracuse’s favor, and cornerback Brandon Reddish had an interception ripped out of his hands that went for a 46-yard gain.

“Disappointed in the loss,” SU head coach Scott Shafer said. “Again, it comes down to an opportunity for an interception and they come down with it for a big play. Another opportunity for an interception and it hits us in the gut and we drop it. There’s two chances for momentum pushes and we didn’t work it.

“We understand how the formula works and that is:  Win the turnover ratio by at least one by the end of the game, rush the ball for more than 50 yards more than the opponent and protect in the kicking game or don’t give up a big play. In two of those areas we came up short and that’s why we lost the game.”

One area that Syracuse didn’t have a problem with was the ground game.

The Orange offense racked up 589 yards of total offense, including 370 yards rushing. Quarterback Terrel Hunt ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, and running back Prince-Tyson Gulley chipped in with 138 yards on 14 carries.               

“I felt like we were unstoppable,” Hunt said. “We were able to move up and down the field, but we had some missed reads and some missed routes. Once we correct those we’ll be even more unstoppable.”

Maryland took the Orange defense to task early, scoring two quick touchdowns in the first quarter. The back-breaker was a 90-yard catch-and-run by Brandon Ross on a screen pass from C.J. Brown, marking the longest scoring play for the Terrapins since 2006.

Cornerback Julian Whigham admitted he flubbed his coverage on Leak’s touchdown.

“I lost from the start [of the play],” Whigham said. “I lost at the line, and I lost at the end. Just bad technique all around. It hurts.”

The Orange drove down the field on consecutive drives, pulling within 14-13 before the Terrapins pulled away.

Brad Craddock hit a 31-yard field goal, running back Jacquille Veii scored from four yards, and cornerback William Likely returned Hunt’s first interception of the year 88 yards to put Maryland up 31-13.

With the offense struggling to finish drives, the pressure was put on the SU defense to come up with stops in the second half. The Orange did, holding Maryland to just three points.

But the offense just couldn’t score enough points.

“It’s a team game,” Whigham said. “The defense should have done a better job in the first half – it’s not the offenses fault. Obviously we would have liked to have more points, but as a team we need to execute and we didn’t do that…it’s disappointing.”

Senior linebacker Cameron Lynch, who led the Orange in tackles for the third straight game, said that Syracuse left some big plays out on the field.

“We had three big opportunities to turn the game around and we didn’t make those plays, so it could be a different story,” Lynch said. “Hats off to their team [Maryland]. They had a few explosive plays on offense and defense.

With a string of tough games coming up, Shafer and the Orange must focus on the task at hand this week: preparing for Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium.

“We’re primetime on ABC,” SU safety Darius Kelly said. “But, we have to concentrate on this week [with practice], and now we’re going to look at it as an opportunity to step on the field against one of the top teams in the nation."

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