COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — It had been seven weeks since Nebraska had a victory to savor, so the Cornhuskers unapologetically celebrated each touchdown with exuberance and happily romped off the field in the rain after the final whistle.
Better yet, the Cornhuskers’ first win since Oct. 5 kept alive their hope of salvaging a disappointing season by becoming bowl eligible.
Utilizing the skills of multi-faceted quarterback Adrian Martinez and an opportunistic defense, Nebraska pummeled Maryland 54-7 Saturday to end a four-game skid.
The Cornhuskers’ long wait for their fifth victory included a pair of bye weeks and wore heavily on the patience of second-year coach Scott Frost. Against Maryland, however, the ball bounced Nebraska’s way in the form of four fumble recoveries.
“We're overdue to get some breaks,” Frost said. “I know we got some tipped balls and some turnovers. Those things can happen when you're on a roll.”
The result was a feel-good victory that could have a lasting impact. If Nebraska beats Iowa at home on Friday, the Cornhuskers will become bowl eligible for the first time since 2016.
“We're going to do everything we can to try to get ready for a really good team,” Frost said. “A win today gives us a chance.”
Playing for the first time in Maryland, the Cornhuskers (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) bolted to a 17-0 lead and coasted to the finish. Along the way, they high-fived and hugged each other and danced in the end zone.
“I was really happy with the team just having the enthusiasm they had, playing for each other,” Frost said. “This team could have shut it down, turned it off, stopped caring, stopped playing hard. They're not doing that.”
Martinez ran for 94 yards and a score and went 16 for 25 for 194 yards and two touchdowns, both to JD Spielman. He was taken out in the third quarter with the score 44-0.
The defense deserves some credit, too. Maryland (3-8, 1-7) could muster only 206 yards and nine first downs in its sixth straight defeat.
It took a 58-yard touchdown run by Javon Leake with 3:13 remaining to ruin Nebraska’s bid for its first shutout since a 33-0 rout of Arizona in the 2009 Holiday Bowl.
That took nothing away from an uplifting, overdue victory for the Cornhuskers.
“It gave me hope,” defensive tackle Darrion Daniels said. “It put us in a position where we have an opportunity to extend our season.”
Maryland has absorbed many a lopsided loss during coach Mike Locksley’s first season, but this one might be the most embarrassing given that the Cornhuskers had previously won only once on the road.
The Terrapins lost two quarterbacks to injuries along the way, Tyrrell Pigrome (lower body) and Lance LeGendre, who separated a shoulder.
Three fumbles by Leake and some untimely penalties ruined Senior Day for the Terps.
“The thing that continues to sit in my craw is the fact that it’s us hurting us,” Locksley said. “We had four turnovers, a bunch of penalties on special teams that kind of broke the back of our team early in the game. You don’t win games when you beat yourselves.”
It started early when Leake lost a fumble on Maryland’s first offensive play to set up a 6-yard run by Dedrick Mills.
Martinez scored on a 1-yard run for a 14-0 lead after the Terrapins were called for a personal foul on a Nebraska punt.
It was 17-0 when Spielman caught a 25-yard touchdown pass after two Terps tipped it in the end zone. A 16-yard toss from Martinez to Spielman helped the Cornhuskers go up 34-0 at the break, tying their largest halftime lead ever in a Big Ten game.
Spielman finished with seven catches for 104 yards, becoming the first Nebraska player to have three seasons of 800 yards receiving. He started the day receiving an IV for the flu, Frost said.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers finally played to their potential for the first time since September, and if they keep it up against Iowa they will be going bowling in December.
Maryland: This might be the nadir of a brutal season under Locksley. Losing to Ohio State 73-14 and Penn State 59-0 is one thing, but a 44-point loss to Nebraska at home on Senior Day is just humiliating.
“Definitely,” Locksley said. “We had 16 seniors who have been through a lot during their time here, and for us to not play to our ability (hurts).”
GETTING HIS KICKS
With kicker Barret Pickering out with a health issue, walk-on Matt Waldoch made his debut at Nebraska and handled the job perfectly. He made all three of his field goal tries — each from 29 yards — and went 4 for 4 on PATs.
Nebraska: Playing on Black Friday for the 30th consecutive year, the Cornhuskers will seek to snap a four-game losing streak against Iowa.
Maryland: The Terrapins close the season at Michigan State, which blanked Rutgers on Saturday and can become bowl eligible by defeating Maryland.
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