Rutgers blows 21-point lead to place exclamation point on season in 46-41 home defeat to Maryland
Right when the Rutgers football team's 2015 season appeared it couldn't have gotten any worse, Saturday's finale proved a low point deeper than rock bottom does exist.
After a first half in which they dominated to jump out to a 31-13 lead at halftime, the Scarlet Knights somehow found a way to blow what was once a 21-point lead and choke away Senior Day at High Point Solutions Stadium in a mesmerizing 46-41 defeat at the hands of Maryland.
"I just left a really emotional, really heartbroken group of seniors and football team," said head coach Kyle Flood at his postgame press conference. "But I think the focus of today, because the finality of the situation, is really with that senior class in the locker room. We're disappointed, we didn't get it done."
One year after surrendering a 25-point comeback in a 41-38 thriller on Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium in College Park, the Terrapins (3-9, 1-7) flipped the scripts in a come-from-behind victory of their own this time around.
It didn't have to, but the game eventually hinged on a pair of 3rd and 4th downs at the Maryland 38-yard line. The Terps stuffed both runs — the last just centimeters away from a conversion that would have kept the potential game-winning drive alive — to end the Knights' last hope.
"It's unfortunate," said senior wide receiver Leonte Carroo. "We just came up short today and ultimately we didn't win the game, but I'm proud of the way the guys fought and played hard ... just came up a little short."
Even after the star wideout worked to put the exclamation mark on his illustrious four-year playing career on the Banks, none of it was enough to end the season on a high note.
"That's what hurts me the most — I'm a guy that looks to make plays for my team and I wasn't able to, ultimately, in the second half, make enough plays to win the game," Carroo said. "So that's what hurts me the most. It was Senior Night, I knew I was gonna come out there and play well. I just wish we would've won the game."
Carroo, who had his lower body injury updated to probable entering the week, looked healthier than he's been in recent games — and his play on the field backed it up.
He racked up a career-high 183 yards on seven receptions with his lone touchdown coming in the first quarter to put Rutgers (4-8, 1-7) up, 7-0, on a six-yard pass from Chris Laviano early in the first quarter with 8:59 remaining.
The sophomore quarterback fed off his top target's extended presence and play, notching a career-high of his own with four touchdown to one interception on 21-of-33 passing for 344 yards.
But none of that factored into the Knights' eventual shortcomings.
Maryland went on to gash Rutgers for 656 total yards, featuring 401 rush yards on 42 carries. Both numbers are the most the Knights have given up on defense all year long.
Four of the Terps' 5 touchdowns — all of which were runs — came on plays of 30 yards or more.
Brandon Ross led the charge with 186 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, highlighted by his 80-yard dash for the exclamation point to serve as the dagger with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter.
"We just wanted to go out the right way, but, I mean, we didn't get it done," said strongside linebacker Quentin Gause. "It was a crazy ending to the game, but (Maryland) capitalized and they got the win."
The attention now shifts to whether or not Flood will return for his fifth year as the head coach at Rutgers.
With University President Robert L. Barchi and Athletic Director Julie Hermann set to meet tomorrow, according to an NJ Advance Media report citing anonymous sources, uncertainty rests within the future of Rutgers' football program moving forward.
But Flood, who said he doesn't give the meeting any thought to the meeting because he hasn't been made aware of it, still feels confident in his job security and the progression of the program moving forward.
"I haven't spoken to anybody in the university. Nobody has given me any indication that I wouldn't be the football coach," Flood said. "I get those questions ... and I think the shame of those type of questions is they lead other people to believe that there's some question about it. To my knowledge, there's no question about it. I'm the head football coach."
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.