WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Sean Davis sat down in the back row of an empty conference room, its glass double doors overlooking the BB&T Stadium turf, where children and parents tossed footballs around after another Wake Forest win. The Maryland safety glanced outside then turned away. His hands rubbed his face and his stare was blank.
“It hurt,” he said. “It hurt me real bad.”
The carnage that occurred here before dusk Saturday afternoon was brutal. It happened swift and without mercy. During the 34-10 shredding by Wake Forest, the Terrapins had both their quest for bowl eligibility halted with a thud and medical hardships reach their nadir. Last season, Maryland watched four quarterbacks suffer season-ending injuries. But this? This felt even worse.
The bumps and bruises were there. Back spasms sidelined linebacker L.A. Goree during warmups, and safety Anthony Nixon hurt his toe on the first defensive series. But both stayed on the sidelines. Neither left on a stretcher, bound for surgery and months of rehabilitation. As the Terps learned that wide receivers Stefon Diggs (broken fibula) and Deon Long (broken fibula and tibia) were both lost for the season with injuries incurred here, Maryland’s players again face the unenviable task of replacing the irreplaceable.
The talking points were clear. Coach Randy Edsall, running back Albert Reid and defensive lineman Darius Kilgo each said the team must “move forward” during postgame interviews. Maryland has enough wideout depth to avoid last season’s injury-related absurdity — linebacker Shawn Petty finished out the season at quarterback — but Long and Diggs were the team’s two leading receivers with 66 total catches, more than 1,000 combined yards and four total touchdowns between them.
“Any game could be your last,” Reid said. “That’s why they say play every play like it’s your last, because you never know when it’s going to be your last play. [Edsall] talks about it all week in practice: Go hard, go hard, we’ve got a big game coming up, every game is a big game. It showed today. You have to play every play like it’s your last.”
Long and Diggs suffered their season-ending injuries in eerily similar fashion Saturday. Just like the ACL tears that fell three quarterbacks in 2012 and the shoulder injuries that have infiltrated Maryland’s linebacking corps this season, Diggs and Long broke the same bone in the same game, leaving the team’s healthy players stunned by what had just unfolded.
“It sucks,” Davis said. “But you know we just have to use this experience, just have to come together, use it as a building experience, just come back stronger. When adversity hits, that’s really going to see what our team is made out of. We got punched in the face today. We have to regroup and come back next week, start fighting back.”
Edsall has taken measures to ensure injuries don’t disrupt the team’s weekly routine. Injured players Matt Robinson, Alex Twine, Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson all traveled to Winston-Salem and stayed with their same roommates to help promote normalcy. But losing playmakers in this fashion isn’t normal. Each game seems to bring new painful memories, of players prone on the ground, trainers vigorously inspecting them and Coach Randy Edsall squeezing their hand for reassurance.
Against Florida State, Edsall missed his opportunity to address his players after quarterback C.J. Brown left with a concussion. But as Long was loaded onto a backboard, driven away by an ambulance bound for the emergency room, Edsall brought his players together.
“I had to get their mind right,” he said. “Deon is a great kid and a really good player. When you see that, we hurt for Deon, but we still got to go play a game, try to win the game.”
They didn’t on Saturday. Not even close. As the Terps tried to explain a 34-point loss in a game they were favored by nearly a touchdown, Davis’s eyes kept drifting down to the floor inside that ballroom. He had tried to rally his teammates during a kickoff after Long and Diggs both went down, even though he rarely talks on the field. And afterwards, Davis preached the message Maryland will adhere to all week and all season, something of which it has become painfully aware during another injury-plagued season.
“I’m ready to move on,” he said. “Yeah. I’m ready to move on.”
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