COLLEGE PARK -- It hasn't been a pretty season for Maryland. The Terps either win ugly, or lose ugly.
Yesterday, Duke had two long passes -- including one for a touchdown -- nullified by penalties, missed a 22-yard field goal, had a long drive stopped because of a fumble and threw two interceptions.
And Maryland still lost, 17-13, before a homecoming crowd of 35,423 at Byrd Stadium.
Why? Because in this season that the Terps (2-5 overall, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) would like to forget, the offense was inconsistent again, and so was the pass defense. Maryland had only 288 yards of total offense, and gave up 368. The Terps were sacked five times and penalized eight for minus-66 yards.
But most of all, Maryland senior quarterback Jim Sandwisch completed only 15 of 30 passes for 136 yards, and was intercepted four times.
"It was like we said, 'Here Duke, take the ball and go beat us,' " said Maryland H-back Frank Wycheck, who had six receptions for 50 yards.
Maryland coach Joe Krivak was more descriptive.
"God only knows that we had enough opportunities to win," said Krivak, whose team was inside Duke territory five times. "But what it boils down to is you have to make some plays. We asked the defense to stop them too many times. We had the opportunity to score, but we just turned the ball over too many times."
The Terps had a chance for another stirring comeback like a week ago, when they pulled out a 23-22 win over Wake Forest on Sandwisch's 35-yard touchdown pass to Wycheck with 1:34 left.
But, this time, Maryland never came close. Duke (4-1-1, 1-1) went ahead, 14-10, on a 27-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline from quarterback David Brown to wide receiver Brad Breedlove with 11:56 left.
Maryland, led by the rushing of halfback Larry Washington, answered with a 26-yard field goal from Dan DeArmas to pull within 14-13 nearly five minutes later.
Duke advanced as far as the Maryland 42 on its next possession, but Terps outside linebacker Joel Goode sacked Brown for a 12-yard loss on a second-and-10, eventually forcing the Blue Devils to punt.
But, on Maryland's next possession, Sandwisch threw high and a little behind Washington, and Blue Devils linebacker Brad Sherrod intercepted, giving Duke possession at the Maryland 25. Six plays later, Randy Gardner kicked a 26-yard field goal for a 17-13 Duke lead with 1:57 left.
dTC Maryland could only advance as far as its 31 on its next series, and Duke ran out the remaining 38 seconds.
End of possible miracle.
"We were confident that we could pull it out again," said Sandwisch. "Everyone was in the huddle saying, 'Let's go.' But we just didn't get it done."
Krivak said he was disturbed about the pass protection in the last two minutes, when Sandwisch was sacked twice while Duke was rushing three linemen. He also was upset about the penalties. And, for the first time this season, he criticized Sandwisch, but also said no quarterback change would be made. Sandwisch's third interception, thrown into double coverage, set up Brown's touchdown pass to Breedlove.
"We had guys open, but we didn't get it to them," Krivak said of Sandwisch, whom he had considered benching at the end of the first half against Wake Forest last week. "I wouldn't say it was one of his stellar performances. I believe he will be our quarterback the remainder of the season. He has been giving us the effort. I'm not going to pull a senior as long as the effort is there."
Sandwisch seemed annoyed about the criticism from Maryland fans in recent weeks.
"I made a couple of mistakes. Offensively, we made a lot of mistakes," said Sandwisch, whose second interception stopped a Maryland drive at the Duke 42 with 9:32 left in the third period.
"There are a lot of critics in the stands, but they can't even find their cars in the parking lots when they leave. They don't know the whole situation; they only see the interceptions, not picks or certain coverages or receivers falling down. I can't do much about this game; I just look forward to next week."
This could be a time for some experimentation with younger players for the Terps, especially with the two-back set, because Maryland has a number of quality running backs, such as senior Troy Jackson, redshirt freshman Doug Burnett and freshmen Washington and Raphael Wall. The two-back set could give the Terps an added dimension in the backfield and take some of the pressure off Sandwisch.
But Krivak, whose team runs the one-back formation, said not to expect many changes.
"We tried some of the two-back [actually, an H-back in the backfield with a halfback], some unbalanced line, too," said Krivak. "But if we use those guys back there, and somebody goes down, what do we do then? We've got limitations, and we're going to have to work with them. I don't know what else we can do."
The Terps didn't know what to do with Duke's passing game either, especially tight end Aaron Shaw, who repeatedly caught passes out in the left flat and over the middle from Brown, who completed 30 of 42 for 334 yards. Shaw had 11 receptions for 149 yards. Before the game, he had 13 receptions for 131 yards.
Shaw had receptions of 22, 9, 7 and 22 yards on Duke's first scoring drive that ended in a 4-yard draw by Brown with 2:12 left in the first half to tie the score at 7. DeArmas, setting a career record, kicked a 50-yard field goal as time expired to give Maryland a 10-7 lead at the half, but the Terps didn't make any adjustments to stop Shaw in the final two quarters.
Even after the game, the Terps still had no clue.
"In some cases, the adjustments weren't made, and, in others, we just didn't make the play," said Maryland inside linebacker Mike Jarmolowich. "Somebody is supposed to come up and make that play on the tight end. I really don't know who."