COLLEGE PARK, Md. — As the clock ticked down the final seconds of the first half, Maryland headed toward the locker room locked in a tie game with Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, the final 30 minutes were decidedly reminiscent of the previous five weeks.
Turnovers, poor pass defense and a failure to come up with a big play doomed the Terrapins to a 31-24 defeat Saturday.
“The missing piece for us is just the attention to detail,” interim coach Mike Locksley said. “The coaching staff is going to continue to coach these guys up. There won’t be an ounce of quit in us.”
Maryland (2-7, 0-5 Big Ten) held Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) to 94 yards in a first half that ended tied at 17. After halftime, however, the Badgers pulled away.
Wisconsin took the lead for good in the third quarter when Alex Ingold scored on a 1-yard run to make it 24-17, and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Joel Stave to Dare Ogunbowale with 14:01 remaining put Maryland in a formidable hole.
The Terrapins closed to 31-24 with 2:39 left and recovered the onside kick. But they were offside on the play and never got the ball back.
It was the sixth consecutive loss for Maryland, the last three under the guidance of interim coach Mike Locksley.
“Defensively, I think we played well enough to win,” Locksley said. “Offensively, we were a little inconsistent.”
Locksley used two quarterbacks, each of whom threw an interception, and Maryland totaled only 138 yards in offense after halftime.
The Badgers came in with the top scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 11 points per game, but Maryland eclipsed that number by halftime after scoring touchdowns on drives of 32 and 33 yards.
In the second half, however, Maryland didn’t cross midfield until the final four minutes.
“We just didn’t finish and execute on plays that we knew we could make,” receiver D.J. Moore said.
After running for 398 yards over the previous three games, Terps quarterback Perry Hills finished with minus-14 yards, a sum that included four sacks. He was pulled in the fourth quarter after going 6 for 16 for 107 yards.
His replacement, Caleb Rowe, threw Maryland’s 25th interception of the season.
Later, Rowe connected with Levern Jacobs for a 27-yard touchdown to cap a 76-yard drive. But the Badgers recovered the onside kick following a penalty on the first attempt.
Stave had only 20 yards passing in the first half but finished with 188 through the air, in part because Wisconsin opted to focus its attention on beating Maryland’s porous secondary.
“They went to throwing the football,” Locksley said. “Their thought process was, since they weren’t able to run the football they would take a few shots. And they hit a few.”
Early on, the Terrapins hung tight with a team that beat them 52-7 last year.
Maryland used a partially blocked punt and a 40-yard touchdown pass from Hills to Moore to tie it at halftime.
Wisconsin stayed close by virtue of a 98-yard kickoff return by Natrell Jamerson and a fake punt that gained 57 yards to set up a 21-yard touchdown run by Ogunbowale.
“We didn’t throw the ball a ton in the first half because of the lack of opportunities,” Stave said.
A 24-yard punt, a pass interference call and a 7-yard touchdown run by Wes Brown put Maryland up 7-0. The lead lasted for 13 seconds— the amount of time it took Jamerson to collect the kickoff and make his way down the right sideline into the end zone.
Maryland kicker Brad Craddock was injured trying to make a tackle on the play. Backup Adam Greene handled the kicking duties the rest of the way.
It was 14-10 before Hills threw an ill-advised pass off his back foot and against his body that was intercepted by Tanner McEvoy, setting up a Wisconsin field goal.
The Badgers were without running back Corey Clement, who had lingering soreness from sports hernia surgery. Clement missed seven games before returning last week to score three touchdowns against Rutgers.
Ogunbowale carried 19 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.
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