With all of the hoopla surrounding Miami's NCAA investigation, and all of the talk about the eight suspended players for the season opener against Maryland, in the end, it was a familiar foe that helped bring Miami down: turnovers. All four of them added up to points for the Terps in the form of three touchdowns and one field goal.
Yes, Miami's young and inexperienced defensive linemen got pushed around by Maryland's mediocre offensive line. The loss of Marcus Forston, Adewale Ojomo and Olivier Vernon up front absolutely had an impact on this game. But so did the two lost fumbles and two interceptions. The shadow that Miami has been trying so hard to shake this offseason crept back over the shoulders of quarterback Stephen Morris on fourth down in the final minute, when Maryland cornerback Cameron Chism made an interception and ran it back 54 yards to end Miami's hopes of a comeback. A turnover late in the second half was equally as devastating, as Chism stripped the ball from tailback Mike James and Joe Vellano recovered it for a 30-yard touchdown return. The play gave the Terps a 20-14 lead.
The shorthanded Miami team that showed up in College Park with just 63 players on its travel squad instead of the ACC's usual 72 was good enough to beat Maryland -- especially considering that Maryland only scored one touchdown in seven trips inside the red zone.
"We had enough on this trip to win this game and we didn't make the plays," Miami coach Al Golden said after the game. "Maryland did, give them credit. And again, [Maryland] did a better job in the penalty/turnover department and won the game."
Penalties and turnovers are an all-too familiar storyline for Miami.
So is the quarterback competition, which will continue through the bye week and leading up to the Ohio State game. For the majority of the game, Morris performed well and looked more than capable of being Miami's starting quarterback this season. Morris accounted for three of the turnovers, though, including two picks that were returned for touchdowns and one fumble that occurred when he was sacked. (The second interception came on the last play of the game).
"[The turnovers] are unacceptable," he said. "That's the only word I can say from an offensive standpoint as the quarterback. It's just not supposed to happen. We've got to be on top of that and we just need to work on that in practice and we'll be fine in two weeks."
Five of the eight suspended players will return in time for the Ohio State game. But it won't matter if the Canes can't hang onto the ball. The reason they lost last year?