COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Miami head coach Al Golden’s start to his new gig hasn’t been an easy one. That’s all been well documented. Monday, he finally led his Hurricanes on to the field for the first time.

The result wasn’t any easier to swallow than the off-the-field news, as Maryland scored nine points in the final 1:39 to win a thrilling Labor Day night game at rain-soaked Byrd Stadium 32-24.

Playing without seven starters due to suspensions -- including five on defense -- Miami hung tough all night long. But those personnel losses proved too costly. An already thin secondary, playing without preseason All-ACC safety Ray-Ray Armstrong, had a tough night trying to slow down Maryland’s offense.

THE FUN CONTINUES

The premise is simple: Five games, in five states, in five days -- from Mobile to College Park -- to kick off NCAA.com's 2011 football coverage. Needless to say, this will be a labor of love for our pigskin fanatics.

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Terrapins quarterback Danny O’Brien threw for 348 yards and a touchdown while completing 31 of 44 passes in what marked the coaching debut of Randy Edsall as well. O'Brien's performance made Edsall excited about what he has behind center.

“I thought Danny [O’Brien] played very well,” Edsall said. “He spread the ball out well to everyone. He was very good when he couldn’t get to his first receiver at looking down to his other options. He stayed poised through out and did a great job at the end.”

O’Brien started the game going 6 of 7 for 72 yards as he drove the Terps 79 yards for a touchdown in the first 3:34. Not a bad way to kickoff a new era in College Park, which saw the seventh largest crowd in stadium history -- 52,875 fans.

“It was a great win for our university, our state, our players and coaches,” Edsall said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of the effort that we gave. The players did their jobs, the coaches did their job, and the fans were unbelievable. If we can create that kind of an atmosphere every Saturday we are going to be difficult to beat.”

“Tonight was the loudest I’ve heard Byrd Stadium in a while,” senior left guard Andrew Gonnella said. “I hope the fans continue to come out and support us like they did tonight because it definitely helped us.”

For a team that was picked to finish fifth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, this was the perfect way to start the season -- on national television against a team that has the name recognition that Miami has. Even if the Canes weren’t at full strength.

The Terrapins outgained Miami 499 to 367, but it seemed like a whole lot more than that. Mainly because they averaged 11.2 yards per pass completion. Using short throws to the flat and bubble screens to his wide receivers, O’Brien was able to pick apart Miami’s secondary.

Maryland’s offensive line helped things, too, as Miami didn’t record a sack and only knocked down O’Brien twice.

“I think when you’re playing offenses like [Maryland] you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to make plays on third down or make plays in the red zone,” Golden said. “We made some plays in the red zone. Our kids kept fighting and competing. I know we gave up a lot of yards, but we could have held them to 20 [points] on the defensive side -- with the changes that we had there and the inexperience that we played with -- I would have been really pleased. There are a lot of things that we have to fix on defense.”

But settling for field goals almost proved to be costly for the Terps. The opening drive touchdown was the only offensive touchdown they scored all day, settling for five field goal attempts while converting four of them -- including what proved to be the game-winning 30-yarder with 1:39 remaining.

Miami was led by running back Lamar Miller, who rushed for 119 yards including a 41-yard touchdown run in the second quarter which gave the Hurricanes a 14-13 lead.

But that didn’t last long.

Following the Terrapins only punt of the night, Miami’s other running back, Mike James, fumbled the football into the arms of defensive lineman Joe Vellano. The junior rumbled 30 yards into the end zone for the score that gave Maryland a 20-14 lead going into halftime.

Miami at Maryland
 
First Downs 18 28
Rushing Offense 172 151
Passing Offense 195 348
Box Score

Miami quarterback Stephen Morris proved worthy of the starting job – despite winning the fall camp competition by default when Jacory Harris was suspended for the opener. He finished with 195 yards passing on 19-of-28 passing with two interceptions. One of them was returned for a touchdown by Cameron Chism 54 yards with 39 seconds remaining that iced the game.

“Clearly the late interception when we were going down there with a chance to win was a critical turnover,” Golden said. “We’ve got to protect the ball in that situation. We win and lose as a team. We didn’t play good enough to win and I’m disappointed.”

The Hurricanes finished with four turnovers and 10 penalties. Something that Golden preached wouldn’t be the case with the new regime.

“[The turnovers] are unacceptable,” Morris 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.”

Now Miami heads back to South Florida with 11 days to think about a game that it was 1:39 from winning, before taking on Ohio State on Sept. 17. Despite all of the negativity and relative unknown surrounding his program, Golden was a stop away from his first win in his first game.

“All we can do is control what we can control and that’s improving every day, taking care of business, going to class, and focusing on the things that we can focus on,” Golden said. “Everything else is out of our control. Again [we’ll] make no excuses, starting with me. We had enough to win on this trip to win this game and we didn’t make the plays. Maryland did, give them credit.”

Credit that Edsall will gladly take. On a night that both coaches won’t forget anytime soon, Edsall left with a smile and some hope for a better finish than many expected in 2011. As for Golden, he left College Park with even more question marks than he had when he arrived. As hard as that is to believe.