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Too many miscues, Syracuse loses to Maryland 34-20

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SYRACUSE, New York — For Syracuse it was a game of mistakes and missed opportunities — and in the end a loss.

C.J. Brown threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns, cornerback William Likely returned an interception 88 yards for another score, and Maryland beat Syracuse 34-20 on Saturday.

The Orange (2-1) could only lament what happened and what might have been after outgaining the Terps 589 yards to 369, including 370-89 on the ground: a penalty that negated a Terrel Hunt touchdown run; confusion that led to an 88-yard interception return for a touchdown; a blocked punt that ultimately led to a Maryland touchdown; two near interceptions; and a missed 25-yard field goal.

You name it, it happened.

"It's a game of turnovers and we know that," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. "You have to win the turnover ratio. You have to take care of your protection in the kicking game.

"Usually, you rush for 280 yards more (than your opponent) you have a shot to win, but I look at those fleeting moments and you've got to come down with the ball. I never felt like we gave ourselves a push in the momentum to get ourselves on track."

Hunt, who added another rushing touchdown with 48 seconds left in the game, gained 156 yards on the ground, becoming the first Syracuse quarterback to run for 100 yards since Donovan McNabb ran for 100 against Miami in 1997. Hunt was 14 of 28 for 219 yards passing.

Prince Tyson-Gulley gained 138 yards, his fourth career 100-yard game and second this season for Syracuse.

Eight penalties for 69 yards, including one that negated a touchdown, killed the Orange.

"We had three big opportunities to turn the game around and didn't make those plays, so it could be a different story," said linebacker Cam Lynch. "They had a few explosive plays on offense and defense, so our job now is to go to the drawing boards and focus on Notre Dame."

Syracuse had an opportunity to go to 3-0 for the first time since 1991, setting up a national statement game next Saturday against Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium.

Another opportunity lost, but Shafer said he wasn't going to dwell on it.

"If you overthink it, maybe," he said. "But that's not how we operate. If you did, you'd drive yourself nuts. I don't need to drive myself nuts."

PHOTO: Maryland’s head coach Randy Edsall looks at the scoreboard late in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse, in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
Maryland’s head coach Randy Edsall looks at the scoreboard late in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse, in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

Likely's backbreaking 88-yard interception for a touchdown gave Maryland a 31-13 halftime lead.

"It is disappointing," Orange offensive coordinator George McDonald said. "Every time you come in the red zone you have to come away with points. The red zone really hurt the momentum."

On the ill-fated interception, McDonald acknowledged "miscommunication" between Hunt and receiver Adrian Flemming.

"This game goes back to what we have talked about, which is emphasizing communication and focus. In that play the communication broke down," McDonald said.

Likely, who forced a fumble, had an interception and punt return for touchdown against West Virginia last week, credited head coach Randy Edsall with his interception.

"Coach called a great play. He told me to make a play on it, Likely said. "I was shocked, and then I saw green grass in front of me."

"I thought that (the interception) was a big turning point in terms of momentum," Edsall added. "Things like that really helped us because if they had gone in and scored, now they get their plays and noise going, and all those sort of things."

Maryland (3-1), which entered the game averaging 37.7 points per game, the highest in school history, almost scored its average in the first half en route to its 18-point lead at intermission.

After the Orange took a 3-0 lead on a 35-yard field goal by Ryan Norton, Maryland went to work.

Brown, who was 16 of 26, connected with wide receiver Marcus Leak in the right corner for a 25-yard touchdown, culminating a five-play, 59-yard drive that took just 1:58.

On the Terps' next possession, Brown hit running back Brandon Ross on a short pass in the flat and Ross did the rest, running down the left sideline for a 90-yard score and 14-3 lead with 6:38 to go in the first quarter. The drive took all of 47 seconds.

Syracuse narrowed the score to 14-13 on a 49-yard field goal by freshman Cole Murphy on his first career attempt and an 8-yard run by Hunt on the first play of the second quarter. It was Hunt's fourth rushing touchdown in his last two games.

Hunt, who added another rushing touchdown with 48 seconds left in the game, gained 156 yards on the ground, becoming the first Syracuse quarterback to run for 100 yards since Donovan McNabb ran for 100 against Miami in 1997. Hunt was 14 of 28 for 219 yards passing.

A 31-yard field goal by Brad Craddock extended Maryland's lead to 17-13 and then the Terps' special teams took over. Anthony Nixon blocked Riley Dixon's punt and Maryland capitalized, scoring in just four plays on Jacquille Veii's 4-yard run to make it 24-13.

Syracuse's special teams faltered, too. Norton missed a 25-yard field goal from the left hash mark at the end of the first half, prompting a chorus of boos from the hometown fans.

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