Piscataway, N.J. — Riding an eight-game losing streak in a season that saw their coach get fired, the Maryland Terps could easily have given up trailing by 21 points late in the first half of the finale against Rutgers.
They didn’t and it proved well worth it.
Brandon Ross scored on an 80-yard run with 4:40 to play and Maryland salvaged the final game of a trying season with a 46-41 victory on Saturday in what might be Kyle Flood’s final game as the Scarlet Knights’ coach.
After playing in his final game, Ross said the Terps’ biggest comeback since overcoming a 20-point deficit against Virginia in 2006 should send a message to the returning players about never giving up.
“We wanted this win so bad, especially with how they came back on us last season,” Ross said, referring to Rutgers rallying from a 25-point deficit to win. “We really wanted this one bad and we came back and got it.”
Ross ran for three touchdowns for the second straight game and Ty Johnson carried for two more as the Terrapins (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten) gave interim coach Mike Locksley his first win in six games and snapped an eight-game overall losing streak.
Locksley refused to discuss his own future with the program, saying he was happy for the players and just wanted to enjoy the win.
“I truly enjoyed and had a great time with these guys,” Locksley said. “I really enjoyed the last six weeks.”
Ross’ go-ahead score came on the first play from scrimmage after Kyle Federico had put Rutgers ahead 41-39 with a 30-yard field goal with 4:57 to play.
Ross said the offense never doubted it would come back and take the lead.
“We knew at that point, we had momentum, and we were going to go down and get a score and the defense was going to stop them somehow,” Ross said. “There was no doubt.”
Ross scored on a counter to give his team the lead and Maryland’s defense stopped Robert Martin twice for no gain at the Terps 38 to kill Rutgers’ final drive with 1:25 to play.
“We all knew that we were going to come back,” said backup quarterback Caleb Rowe, who came off the bench in the second quarter and threw for 239 yards and ran for 98. “Nobody was down on themselves. It was something we have been through before. We just battled on back.”
Kenneth Goins Jr. had given Maryland its first lead at 39-38 with a 42-yard touchdown run with 8:43 to play and Federico gave Rutgers its final lead on the next series.
Chris Laviano threw a career-best four touchdowns and Paul James ran for a touchdown for Rutgers (4-8, 1-7), which lost five of its final six games in a turbulent season that saw Flood suspended three games for trying to influence a player’s grade and six players dismissed for off-the-field problems.
“I haven’t spoken to anybody in the university,” said Flood, who is 27-24 in four seasons. “Nobody has given me any indication that I wouldn’t be the football coach.”
Ross rushed for 173 yards and also scored on runs of 16 yards and 1 yard. Johnson tallied on run of 43 and 44 yards
Maryland finished with 401 yards rushing and had 656 yards in total offense, the first time it has passed the 600-yard mark since 2004.
Laviano’s touchdown passes covered 6 yards to Leonte Carroo, 6 yards to Josh Hicks, 7 yards to Janarion Grant and 1 yard to Charles Scarff.
Scarff’s first career touchdown gave the Scarlet Knights a 38-27 lead late in the third quarter, but it would not be enough to hold off Maryland, which limited Rutgers to 10 second-half points after its biggest first half of the season.
Carroo, playing his final game, had seven catches for a career-best 183 yards, including a one-hander along the sideline.
Laviano finished 21 of 33 for 344 yards and one interception. The pick came at the start of the second half with Rutgers ahead 31-13 and it set up Ross’ first touchdown from 16 yards out.
Trailing 31-10 late in the second quarter after a 6-yard touchdown run by James, the Terps got back in the game by reeling off 17 straight points to close the gap to 31-27 on Johnson’s 44-yard run.