Maryland football inserted quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome under center late in the third quarter, looking for any answers for an offense that had found no success against No. 19 Iowa.
Quarterback Kasim Hill had struggled through the air on a windy day. So Pigrome, a stronger rushing threat, seemed to offer another look for the Hawkeyes defense to handle.
But with the ball at the Terps’ 10-yard line, wide receiver Brian Cobbs went in motion before the snap and bumped into Pigrome as he turned for a handoff. The ball slipped out of Pigrome’s grasp, and he inadvertently kicked it into Maryland’s end zone, where defensive lineman Anthony Nelson landed on it for a touchdown.
The ugly sequence, Maryland’s second turnover Saturday, encapsulated its offensive futility against the Hawkeyes. The Terps gained just 115 yards in the 23-0 loss, the fifth-fewest for the team since 2000.
“You have to make plays. That’s what it’s about,” interim head coach Matt Canada said. “Just wasn’t a very good day for us on offense, clearly.”
Before the Terps traveled to Iowa City, running back Ty Johnson said they couldn’t afford “shooting ourselves in the foot” against a highly ranked Iowa defense.
Johnson’s fears came to pass, as giveaways and miscues kept Maryland’s offense off the board for the second time this season.
Late in the second quarter, Hill dropped back to pass and stared down Cobbs as he ran his route. Safety Amani Hooker read Hill’s eyes and broke with Cobbs as Hill began his throwing motion.
The redshirt freshman’s pass was underthrown and intercepted, ending what had been the Terps’ first productive drive Saturday. The Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten), who had already dominated possession to that point, concluded the half with a 10-play, 58-yard touchdown drive that began to translate some of its superiority onto the scoreboard.
Maryland’s second road matchup against a ranked opponent unfolded similarly to the first. Against then-No. 15 Michigan two weeks ago, Maryland (4-3, 2-2) went into the locker room with 42 yards on 17 plays. Its defense was forced to stay on the field for over 21 minutes in the opening 30 minutes of play, and its offense couldn’t capitalize on an early interception.
Linebacker Tre Watson picked off Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley to end their first drive deep inside the Terps’ territory, but the offense stayed on the field for just over a minute before punting the ball away. Iowa ate up yardage and time of possession, leading to two short field goals and a 6-0 lead.
“If we’re on the field that long,” defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam said, “it’s going to wear on us throughout the game.”
After Hooker’s interception, Iowa drove down the field once again. Cornerback Tino Ellis clung to wide receiver Brandon Smith’s arm in the end zone with 13 seconds left in the half, but the wideout made a one-handed catch to give the Hawkeyes a 13-0 edge at the break.
At halftime, Maryland had accumulated 46 yards on 16 plays, and its defense had been left out for more than 22 minutes to contend against a bruising Iowa rushing attack.
“You play that many plays, it’s going to wear on you, no matter how well-conditioned you are,” Watson said. “They made some plays in some crucial situations that we failed to make, and that puts you in a bad spot throughout the game.”
While Stanley struggled to complete passes at times, a ground game that averaged 155.7 yards per game entering Saturday carried the Hawkeyes throughout the contest. Stanley finished 11-22 with 86 yards, while eight runners combined for 224 yards.
Errors marred each of the Terps’ three drives in the first half. A botched snap on third-and-short ended the first series, a penalty pushed the team back to start the second and Hill’s interception concluded the third, the lone time the Terps crossed into Iowa territory.
Hill completed six passes for 47 yards, another underwhelming performance in his first full season as a starter. The Terps punted as many times as receivers reeled in catches Saturday. And with a rushing game that managed just 68 yards, Maryland had no hope at a ranked upset.
“I really, really, really wish we would’ve played better,” Canada said. “We’re 4-3. Could be better. Could be worse. So we’re going to wake up tomorrow, move on to the next one.”