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Terps derps: Maryland INT, TO rates approaching historic levels

On its ninth play in the season-opening game against Richmond, Maryland threw an interception. In retrospect, it's hard to believe it took that long.

It's been a lost season for the 2-8 Terrapins, who fired head coach Randy Edsall after the first six games. But at least this team has a chance to do something historic, if not for the reasons it would like to remember.

Maryland's turnover rate -- and in particular its interceptions -- are approaching rarely-seen territory. Truly, this year, you can't spell Terrapins without I-N-T.

Consider:

  • Maryland "leads" the nation with 28 interceptions thrown. That's tied for the most in the FBS in the past 20 years, along with 2007 North Texas and 2000 Louisiana Tech, who each did it over 12 games. The Terps' current rate of 2.8 interceptions per game is on pace to be the highest of any team in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

  • What makes Maryland's 28 picks even crazier is that this isn't a high-volume passing offense (for understandable reasons). The Terrapins have thrown the ball 309 times this season. By comparison, the '07 Mean Green attempted 553 passes and the 2000 Bulldogs chucked it 546 times en route to their 28-interception campaigns.

  • Maryland is throwing an interception for every 11 pass attempts this season. Meanwhile, it is completing just 46.3 percent of its throws. This team is fulfilling the old coaching adage that when you throw the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad.

  • The Big Ten doesn't keep interceptions thrown as a record, but the Terrapins are the most turnover-prone team in recent league history and quite possibly ever. Since 2003, the most interceptions a Big Ten team has thrown in a season is 2006 Purdue, which had 20. And that came on 541 attempts over 14 games by the Boilermakers.

  • The Terps' 35 total turnovers are also mind-boggling. Only three Big Ten teams have finished a season with at least 30 turnovers since 2003, led by Nebraska in 2012 and Illinois in 2006, who each also had 35. Those Cornhuskers played 14 games, however.

  • Maryland's current minus-19 turnover margin would also be the worst by a Big Ten team since at least 2003. Illinois was minus-18 in 2003. The worst FBS turnover margin of the past 10 years belongs to 2008 Washington State, which was minus-25. The 2012 Idaho Vandals have the most total turnovers in the FBS in the past 10 years with 39. But, hey, the Terps have two more games to break both those marks, and they're well on pace!

  • Junior quarterback Caleb Rowe is suffering through one of the worst seasons imaginable. Rowe has thrown 15 interceptions in just 114 attempts, or one for every 7.6 times he passes the ball. His QBR rating -- the stat is based on a 100-point scale -- is 13.3. Perry Hills has thrown 12 interceptions in 174 attempts. Third-stringer Daxx Garman is the king of ball security by comparison, with just one pick in 18 attempts. But he also has only six completions.

So just what in the heck is in the air -- besides balls headed toward defenders -- in College Park this year?

"Poor-decision making on the part of our quarterbacks," said interim head coach Mike Locksley, who began the year as the team's offensive coordinator and -- gulp -- quarterbacks coach. "We've thrown some really egregious interceptions this year, where we're throwing into double coverage. Just not doing a good job with our eye discipline, seeing the safeties and throwing the ball where we're supposed to throw it."

It's little wonder, then, that Maryland's offense has developed into almost an option game as the season has gone along, with a heavy quarterback run (ie., please don't throw it!) emphasis.

"We run the ball quite a bit now on third down, because of our poor decision-making," Locksley said. "I'm sure a lot of people don't like it, but we've got to try and do things to win games."

There is, potentially, some good news on the horizon for the errant-tossing Terrapins. Their final two games come against two of the worst pass defenses in the Big Ten: Indiana and Rutgers. This week's opponent, the Hoosiers, have a league-low seven interceptions and have allowed more passing yards than any other Power 5 team this season. Rutgers is giving up nine yards per pass attempt, worst in the conference, and has just 11 picks.

So maybe Maryland can finally get more kicks and fewer picks in the final two games. At least the Terrapins should avoid breaking the FBS record of 61 turnovers in a season, shared by 1971 North Texas and 1976 Tulsa. But the way this weird season has gone for them, we wouldn't guarantee it.