Who: Maryland (0-0) vs. William & Mary (0-0).
When: Saturday, 3:04 p.m.
Where: Byrd Stadium.
Internet: Game televised on ESPN3.com.
DMV radio: WTEM (980 AM), WJZ (105.7 FM).
Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (Second season, 2-10). Tribe – Jimmye Laycock (33rd season, 213-151-2).
Series: Series is tied 2-2. Teams last met Sept. 2, 2006, in College Park, a 27-14 Maryland win.
Upset-minded William & Mary comes to town for the inaugural game of Edsall’s sophomore campaign. That first season was a forgettable one. The Terps went 2-10, and with it encountered their fair share of controversy. But it’s a new year in College Park. And with all of Maryland’s injuries, the Football Championship Subdivision Tribe might be a tough out on the new, pristine turf of Byrd Stadium.
Plenty of true freshmen will see plenty of action for the Terps, including highly touted local product Stefon Diggs (Good Counsel) and quarterback Perry Hills (more on him later). Mike Locksley returns as Maryland’s offensive coordinator, bringing with him a multiple no-huddle, pro-style system. Brian Stewart installed a 3-4 as the new defensive coordinator. Suffice to say, the Terps are surrounded by the unfamiliar in 2012. The ultimate test, though, will come in turning this newfound excitement into a reversal of fortune.
1.Turnaround time? The question is obvious. The answer is not. Season ticket sales are down, even though Edsall told reporters Thursday that the student section was expected to be filled. Stringing together some nonconference wins and building momentum will be paramount to regaining fan interest, and it all starts with the on-the-field product. Turn things around, and excitement builds. Considering the contrary might be bad for your health.
2.Who will step up? The sideline will look like a Monty Python scene with all the walking – or crutching – wounded. The field will have enough teenagers to fill a high school prom. Freshmen running backs Wes Brown and Albert Reid will platoon with Justus Pickett. Sean Davis starts in Matt Robinson’s stead at strong safety. Aussie Brad Craddock will handle the kicking duties. Or could we see a veteran, someone like preseason all-American defensive lineman Joe Vellano or tight end Matt Furstenburg, play hero and help carry their young teammates through the opener?
3. Is Hills ready? The true freshman will be counted on to lead an inexperienced backfield in an unfamiliar, pro-style system. Hills certainly seems confident enough. He and his coaching staff have spoken at length about his wrestling background, and the mental toughness garnered from such one-on-one competition. Hills earned the starting nod pretty quickly after C.J. Brown tore his ACL — Brown, by the way, will be out at midfield for the coin toss as a captain — and has been full-speed ahead ever since. Now he faces his first real collegiate test.
5: True freshmen starting for the Terps: Hills, Reid, Craddock, Davis, Diggs. Six if you count Nathan Renfro, who could wind up being the punter.
.100: William & Mary’s winning percentage in season-opening games over the past 10 years (1-9). The Tribe have a history of playing Football Bowl Subdivision schools on the road to kick off the season. Its lone win in the past decade came three years ago when it upset Virginia, 26-14, in Charlottesville.
$250,000: Money Maryland is reportedly paying William & Mary for this game.
“Going against a team with the size, speed of Maryland, if we make a mistake, it can be a touchdown, whereas against other teams it could be a first down. I use it as a measuring stick insofar as their competitiveness. We’re going in as a decisive underdog, a lot of things against us, how well we compete in a tough environment, tough situation.” – Laycock
“Our offense presents a different type of challenge because they can be spread, two-back or one back. Their challenge is that they are a very hard ball run type of team. They run straight downhill right at you. That’s what we have been working on in the last week.” – Stewart
The Song(s) of Saturday
“Welcome Back,” by Mase.
Or, if only because the Terps now have an Australian kicker . . .
“Down Under” by Men At Work.