COLLEGE PARK — The official blew his whistle, and the Maryland players hurried indoors, heads low and spirits even lower.
Fans soon followed suit, leaving their snacks, ponchos and confidence behind to join the long lines of others desperate to evacuate the scene.
While they waited, questions of leadership turned to anger — hope had turned to despair.
Remaining in the wake were thousands of Michigan fans who clouded Byrd Stadium with maize and blue and joy. Below them were the players, still somewhat shocked at the damage they caused and can cause at their next stop.
And at the center of it all stood the eye of a storm that has an entire nation talking — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
On a day when Hurricane Joaquin mercifully changed course and steered clear of Maryland, Harbaugh and his team made sure to leave behind a lasting impact of their own.
The defensive line stormed the backfield with lightning-quick hits. The secondary swirled about the open field, taking unsuspecting passes in its wake. It wasn’t immediate, but there was even a figurative downpour in the second half, when the offense scored 22 points at will en route to a 28-0 win.
The destruction of the Terrapins was far from surprising: The Wolverines have outscored their opponents by a combined 122-14 in their last four games and outgained them by a staggering 1,023 yards in that span. But like all hurricanes, Hurricane Harbaugh is as unstoppable as it is predictable.
“We knew we had a challenge ahead of ourselves,” said Maryland running back Wes Brown. “They didn’t do anything special that we didn’t see on film. It was on us, we weren’t executing.”
Despite the strong forecasts, the storm was slow to start. In a sloppy but scoreless first quarter, it looked like 16-point underdog Maryland had taken the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.
But it wasn’t enough, as a sea of white uniforms and winged helmets rose from the sideline and drowned out any hopes of an upset. The Wolverines suffocated the Terrapins, holding them to 35 yards on 46 plays after their first two possessions.
By the time the third quarter rolled around, and backup quarterback Daxx Garman was sacked with all six of his blockers laying on the ground in front of him, it was too late to escape Harbaugh’s wrath — his team was too fast, too powerful and no longer on the horizon.
“Our guys are really starting to get settled in,” said fifth-year senior linebacker Desmond Morgan. “Everyone knows what their assignment is on each play, and we have this overall comfort with one another.
“As we get more comfortable with each other, the faster we’ll play.”
Yes, Hurricane Harbaugh is still picking up steam, and can become even more powerful. Fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock continues to turn the ball over and miss big plays on offense, half a dozen players were limited in practice with injuries and, though the defense has allowed just 1.8 yards per play and 205 total yards in its last two games, slow starts on defense could doom Michigan in its upcoming two games against No. 17 Northwestern and No. 2 Michigan State.
But the fact remains: Hurricane Harbaugh gathers momentum and strength with every team it obliterates, and looks as strong as any storm to originate in Ann Arbor has in years.
Experts will continue to debate just how far this team can go, what category it belongs in and how teams match up.
But on Saturday, it was stunningly clear: the damage left behind by Hurricane Harbaugh is not something to take lightly.
Shaw can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @_ZachShaw.