The Maryland football team’s leaders faced reporters this week with serious looks on their faces and important issues on their minds. A three-game losing streak, they said, threatened to unhinge the group’s chemistry. Agitation — over the rampant injuries, the lethargic first halves, the season’s abrupt downturn — was seeping through Gossett Team House.
So the team’s leadership council, an 11-man brain trust appointed this offseason by the coaching staff, gathered inside a meeting room Monday and aired their grievances. They wondered why the once-close group seemed to be splintering; why, with Saturday’s visit to Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC) looming, a team that had matched the program’s best start since 2001 has since fallen off the rails.
“We’re not accepting what’s happened the last couple weeks,” said Cole Farrand, who represents Maryland’s inside linebackers on the council. “We have to get back to where we started. Myself included, we’re very unhappy with what we’re producing. There’s a lot of things we need to change.”
Then the council called a teamwide meeting to announce its conclusions. Something, the most vocal players said, had to be done to motivate those who looked like they weren’t “having fun,” as running back Albert Reid said.
Coach Randy Edsall explained the calculus simply: Winning is fun, Maryland is losing, so who could possibly be having fun?
“Losing stinks,” said Edsall, who is 0-16 after Oct. 13 during his three years with the Terps. “It really does. When you’re 4-0, 5-1, it’s fun. All of a sudden we’ve lost three in a row. That isn’t fun. I would hope that people wouldn’t think it’s fun when you lose three in a row.”
The Terps (5-4, 1-4) picked a tough week for introspection. Many of them have never traveled to Lane Stadium, where sellout crowds turn an opponent’s pre-snap calls into muffled murmurs. The Hokies’ defense tops the ACC in most categories, and Virginia Tech returns home euphoric from a 42-24 road upset of then-No. 14 Miami. Quarterback Logan Thomas, whose roller-coaster season reached its apex at Sun Life Stadium with just six incompletions and 366 passing yards, is 15-0 lifetime when he doesn’t turn over the football.
Maryland, on the other hand, is plummeting. Its proud defense has allowed an average of 36.6 points in five ACC games. Starting quarterback C.J. Brown has not accounted for a touchdown since September, and his stable of targets was thinned even more this week when slot receivers Levern Jacobs (concussion) and DeAndre Lane (hamstring) were ruled out (Maryland now has only three wide receivers left who have caught a pass in college). During a 20-3 loss to Syracuse last weekend, one that reinvigorated criticism of Edsall from fans and commentators alike, the Terps committed four turnovers on four straight possessions.
Even so, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer spoke positively this week about a program that has never beaten his team as conference foes.
“The film doesn’t match up with the way the game ended,” Beamer said. “You watch the video, and they’re plenty good enough. They’re plenty good enough, and we know that. If you put a game together, which they’re plenty capable of doing, they’re plenty good enough.”
Players such as Farrand feel otherwise. When the junior walked into Gossett Team House on Wednesday afternoon, his hair pulled into a ponytail with a rubber band, he seemed bent on making the leadership council’s message public: Forget the injuries and remember when Maryland was 4-0 and steamrolling toward its first postseason appearance since 2010.
“We definitely have to look at ourselves as a team right now and what we’re doing, especially after this week. I feel like we’re letting a lot of people down,” Farrand said. “The coaches are doing their job, giving us a good enough game plan to get the job done, but the players haven’t been executing.
“Teams face adversity all the time. You’ll see Appalachian [State] beat Michigan [in 2007]. It’s definitely Maryland’s turn to be the team that’s facing adversity and picking it up and getting the big wins now. I think we have to look at ourselves as a team and change the mind-set.”
Mark Giannotto contributed to this report.