Every aspect of Saturday’s game set up well for Maryland to break a two-game losing streak and clinch bowl eligibility.

The Terps’ bye week gave them an opportunity to reset and built anticipation for the next win. The time off also helped shrink an injury list that featured too many starters. Their schedule featured a sub-.500 team with an interim head coach that had just one Power Five win.

Maryland’s first five offensive plays — which gained 66 yards and ended with a Tai Felton touchdown — felt like the start of a blowout. Instead, they were just the opening act to a disastrous 33-27 loss to Northwestern, the program’s second straight loss to a supposedly inferior opponent.

The Terps squandered a prime chance at bowl eligibility in a loss that featured the usual suspects: baffling turnovers, untimely penalties and a leaky defense.

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“They outplayed us; they outhustled us; they outhit us,” Maryland coach Michael Locksley said. “And, when that happens, you have to look at everything, including myself and all the way down on the roster. Everybody who made this trip played a part in what happened today, and it’s really disappointing.”

Co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin did not travel to Evanston, Illinois, due to a DUI charge last weekend — another concern for a Terps squad that’s close to seeing its season unravel.

They had a chance for a win, driving to the Wildcats’ 31 with nearly a minute and a half remaining. But Taulia Tagovailoa’s final pass of the game sailed over a slipping Corey Dyches and into the arms of a waiting Coco Azema.

The pick was Tagovailoa’s second turnover of the game. The first came on Maryland’s second drive. The quarterback took a deep drop and readied to fire downfield. But the ball slipped from his grasp during the windup and Northwestern recovered.

“Nothing I can say other than I don’t know how the ball fell out of his hand,” Locksley said.

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Those weren’t the only Maryland mistakes. Four Terps penalties each gave Northwestern 15 yards: a kick-catch interference, a pass interference, an unnecessary roughness and an unsportsmanlike conduct. Another unsportsmanlike conduct inside the Maryland 5-yard line cost 3 yards.

The fouls helped what had previously been a stagnant Northwestern offense erupt. The first unsportsmanlike conduct, on redshirt senior linebacker Fa’Najae Gotay for shoving a Wildcat’s facemask after the play, came on a drive on which Northwestern scored a touchdown.

Redshirt junior Riyad Wilmot shoved Brendan Sullivan to the ground on the opening play of the second quarter even though the quarterback was well out of bounds. The unnecessary roughness turned a 6-yard gain into 21. The Wildcats ended the drive with a touchdown to take their first lead — one they never relinquished.

“We talked to [the team] prior to the game that this [officiating] team is going to officiate it really close and really tight,” Locksley said. “... After-the-play stuff is stuff that I don’t condone, and those are the things that are killing us right now.”

Maryland’s defense continued its midseason swoon — it has allowed at least 27 points in each of the last three games after not allowing more than 20 in its first five games.

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Northwestern entered the game with putrid offensive numbers. It ranked 106th in the country in CFBGraph’s measure of expected points added per play — a stat that models how many points an offense gained or lost on a specific play, accounting for down, distance and other factors. Howard, a 4-4 team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, limited Northwestern to 23 points.

Sullivan entered the year as the Wildcats’ backup and was making his third straight start. That, combined with the fact that Maryland played him last year in its seven-point win against Northwestern, meant the Terps had plenty of film on a player it should have exploited.

Instead, the junior went 16-for-23 for 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He averaged a robust 0.34 EPA per drop-back, in the 80th percentile per Game on Paper.

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The defense showed mild moments of progress, holding inside its own 11-yard-line on two occasions in a second half in which it didn’t allow a touchdown. But Maryland’s offense, a unit that scored on its third drive after the fluky Tagovailoa fumble, sputtered.

The Terps went without a touchdown on seven drives, a span that stretched from late in the first quarter to the beginning of the fourth. Tagovailoa finished with 274 yards on a whopping 47 attempts. He took six sacks from a Northwestern team that entered the game a Big Ten-worst 10th. Tagovailoa finished with -0.27 EPA per drop-back — a mark in the 21st percentile.

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Despite it all, Maryland got that final chance at victory and seemed ready to capitalize — quickly driving into Wildcats territory. Tagovailoa fired an incomplete pass down the left sideline to Felton — a ball at the outskirts of the receiver’s reach but still catchable. The pick happened on the very next play.

“There was a drop,” Locksley said of the pass to Felton. “... We both have a responsibility within that relationship, coach and player. Players got to make plays, and coaches got to make sure we coach better. And both those plays were plays that could and should have been made. They weren’t, but that was the story of the day for us.”

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