A tumultuous season for the Maryland football team comes down to one game, Saturday against Penn State at Beaver Stadium, to see if it will continue in a bowl contest.
The Terrapins (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) are coming off back-to-back losses to Indiana and Ohio State, accounting for 1,077 total yards and 73 points in the two games but losing by 34-32 to the Hoosiers and by 52-51 in overtime to the Buckeyes.
After beginning the season with a win over Texas, now ranked No. 11 by the Associated Press, and going 4-2 in their first six games, the Terps need to win Saturday to earn a bowl bid.
Maryland has been a program in upheaval. It began May 29 when 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed during team workouts and died June 13. Following a review, on Aug. 11 the university placed head coach D.J. Durkin on administrative leave.
After completing its investigation more than two months later, the Maryland board of regents recommended that Durkin be reinstated to his job, and school president Wallace Loh brought Durkin back on Oct. 30. However, after protests by students, alumni and a number of players, Durkin was fired without cause the next day.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada served as interim coach during Durkin's leave and has continued in that role.
The Terrapins have moved the ball recently behind a strong running game that ranks 17th in the nation. Redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland rushed Saturday for 298 yards — the second-highest mark in program history — and scored first-quarter touchdowns on runs of 81 and 75 yards against the Buckeyes.
The 5-foot-8, 193-pound McFarland has rushed for 1,022 yards, the first freshman at Maryland to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.
Maryland never trailed Ohio State on Saturday until the first possession of overtime, in which the Buckeyes scored to take a 52-45 lead. Sophomore Tayon Fleet-Davis then scored for the Terrapins on a 1-yard run and Canada decided to go for two points and the win, but a pass from Tyrrell Pigrome to Jeshaun Jones went incomplete.
Canada praised his players afterward.
"They deserve all the credit for sticking together, for believing in each other and for playing as hard as they possibly could play," Canada said in a story in the Baltimore Sun. "Obviously I wished they would have been able to win for them. They deserved it."