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Maryland fails to close out season with a win

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Maryland fails to close out season with a win

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Bryn Renner tied a school record with five touchdown passes, while Gio Bernard ran for 163 yards and a score to help North Carolina beat Maryland 45-38 in the finale for both teams Saturday.

Freshman Quinshad Davis had nine catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns for the Tar Heels (8-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who blew the game open with a dominating third quarter en route to another big scoring output in their first season under Larry Fedora. North Carolina won eight games for the second time in three seasons but is banned from a bowl due to NCAA sanctions.

Brandon Ross ran for 141 yards and a touchdown for the Terrapins (4-8, 2-6), who closed their second straight bowl-less season under Randy Edsall. They led 35-21 after Stefon Diggs' 99-yard kickoff return to open the second half, but UNC scored 24 straight points to take back control.

Renner connected with Davis for a 50-yard scoring pass to start UNC's game-turning charge, then found Erik Highsmith for a 15-yard scoring pass on the next possession to tie the game. Thomas Moore put the Tar Heels ahead to stay with a 22-yard field goal midway through the third, then Bernard -- who tallied his fifth 100-yard rushing game this season -- scored from 1 yard out to make it 45-35 late in the quarter.

While Renner and the Tar Heels heated up, Maryland's offense -- led by converted linebacker Shawn Petty due to a rash of injuries at quarterback -- couldn't sustain any drives or come up with a momentum-killing answer. After racking up 304 yards by halftime, Maryland had 14 plays for minus-7 yards with just one first down in the third quarter.

The Terrapins managed a field goal to make it a one-possession game with 3:12 left, but the Tar Heels moved the chains behind Bernard to run out the clock and send Maryland into the offseason with six straight losses.

As the final seconds ticked away, UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams -- one of the seniors who stuck around instead of transferring after the NCAA sanctions were announced -- doused Fedora with a cooler of water to celebrate the win.

There were also a few chants of "ACC! ACC!" from North Carolina fans, a jab at Maryland's announcement earlier this week that it would move to the Big Ten in 2014.

Renner completed 28 of 39 passes for 305 yards for UNC, and nearly had his sixth TD pass of the day when he found Davis for what appeared to be a 10-yard score. But officials reviewed the play and determined Davis was down inside the 1, leading to Bernard's short scoring run.

Petty, Maryland's fifth QB this year, finished with a career-best 208 yards passing in his fourth straight start. Diggs also threw an 8-yard scoring pass on a trick play with 21 seconds left in the first half, the first of three touchdowns in 34 seconds that seized momentum for the Terrapins.

UNC muffed the ensuing kickoff and Petty connected with Kevin Dorsey for a 28-yard score with 4 seconds left in the half, then Diggs capped the flurry with his long kickoff return coming out of halftime. 

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Maryland strives to improve Big Ten's worst defense

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Maryland strives to improve Big Ten's worst defense

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland's season is spinning out of control, and the Terrapins find themselves defenseless in their bid to stop it.

Although much of the attention at Maryland this season has focused on the quarterback position, the team's most obvious flaw is its porous defense.

The Terrapins have yielded an average of 36.5 points per game, which ranks last in the Big Ten and 115th of 129 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They are permitting 439 yards per game -- last in the Big Ten and 104th in the FBS.

Over the past two games, Maryland (3-3, 1-2) has given up 99 points and 1,115 yards. One big reason is that the Terrapins have one sack in their last three games.

"We definitely need more pressure on the quarterback," coach DJ Durkin said Tuesday. "That's pretty much a staple of football. If you allow a quarterback to be patient and calm in the pocket, they usually find a guy open."

That's happened more times this season than Durkin would care to remember, and goes a long way toward explaining why Maryland's pass defense is 107th in the FBS.

Even though injuries have cost the Terrapins their top two quarterbacks , perhaps the most notable injury is the broken ankle sustained by defensive end Jesse Aniebonam in the season opener. Aniebonam had nine sacks, 14 tackles for a loss and 30 quarterback hurries in 2016.

"It's been a little shaky getting through it," defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. said.

"When you lose Jesse off the bat like that, he's your main pass rusher," end Brett Kulka said. "So it's going to be an issue to work through."

Durkin got the job at Maryland after a successful runs as a defensive coordinator at Florida and Michigan. In his second season at Maryland, he's tried just about everything to turn things around with this unit.

In the end, though, it comes down to individual effort.

"I'm sure there's always times when you can have a better call in certain situations, but guys have to win 1-on-1s," Durkin said. "If they keep enough guys in the block, someone's got to win a 1-on-1. It's really an attitude and a demeanor. It's about having the right attitude of, `I'm going to go win. I'm going to beat a block.'"

That didn't happen often last weekend in a 37-21 loss to Northwestern. Not only did the Wildcats pass for 293 yards, but tailback Justin Jackson rambled for 171 yards.

It was the third defeat in four games for the Terps. Things don't get any easier Saturday against No. 5 Wisconsin and Big Ten rushing leader Jonathan Taylor, who amassed 219 yards on the ground last week in a win over Purdue .

"He's hard to tackle," Durkin said. "He's got good speed, good vision. He understands what they do. Where to hit the hole, when to be patient how the blocks are going to unfold."

It's going to take a huge effort from the Maryland defense to pull off an upset.

"We need to go back to the basics," Brooks said. "We need to run to the ball more, make more tackles, cause more turnovers."

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Ty Johnson's 100-yard kick return for Maryland earns him Big Ten honors

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Ty Johnson's 100-yard kick return for Maryland earns him Big Ten honors

The Maryland Terrapins got rocked on the road by Ohio State on Saturday, losing 62-14 — although that’s still an improvement on their 62-3 loss in 2016 — but there was a clear bright spot on the field: Ty Johnson.

The Terps’ junior running back was named the Big Ten’s Special Teams Player of the Week, the conference announced Monday, and the honor is well deserved after Johnson stunned the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in the first quarter of the game with a 100-yard kick return.

After Ohio State jumped out to a 14-zip lead about five minutes into the game, Johnson was on the receiving end of the Buckeyes’ kickoff following their second touchdown. Johnson caught the ball on the edge of his team’s end zone, and thanks to great blocking early on by the Terps, he was able to zigzag his way through Ohio State players and find a path down the sideline to the opposite end zone.

Johnson’s standout play was the 37th 100-yard kick return in Big Ten history, according to the conference. It was also Maryland’s first since Will Likely did it against Iowa in 2015.

This is the first time Johnson has received Special Teams Player of the Week honors, and he averaged 31.5 yards per kick return on six attempts against the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Maryland’s next game is Saturday, October 14 when the Terps host the Northwestern Wildcats at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.

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