Earlier this week, Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil went to the dining hall and ordered pasta. Behind the counter, the server noticed the Maryland outside linebacker, decked out in Terrapins gear, and felt compelled to offer his congratulations in between servings. “Good game,” he said. “You guys got a battle this week. Keep playing your hearts out.”
Offensive lineman De’Onte Arnett experienced something similar. Walking around campus, strangers approached him with fond memories of Maryland’s 37-0 whipping of West Virginia on Sept. 21. Arnett thanked them and walked away. This never used to happen, and he found it pretty cool.
“Maryland has a tough crowd that we play in front of,” Arnett said. “It’s good to have them all behind us right now.”
The 25th-ranked Terps (4-0) need all the firepower they can muster for Saturday’s game against No. 8 Florida State (4-0). In 11 games at Doak Campbell Stadium, they have never won. But Coach Randy Edsall’s group reversed course against the Mountaineers, ending a seven-game losing streak dating from 2003. Why not do something similar against the Seminoles?
“It’s not really being addressed, because we’re not focusing on that, just like we didn’t focus on that with West Virginia,” linebacker Cole Farrand said. “I know it’s the back of everybody’s minds. Even though we won’t address it, I know people are thinking about it. It’s not the biggest thing, but this is our season, whatever happened in the past happened in the past.”
Nonetheless, Saturday’s game is clearly the biggest of Edsall’s tenure, which began in 2011. It’s also his first game coaching a ranked Maryland team, as the Terrapins ascended into the Associated Press poll for the first time since the end of the 2010 season.
To get to this point, the Terps have beaten two winless Football Bowl Subdivision teams (Florida International and Connecticut, which this week fired Paul Pasqualoni as coach) and one team that is transitioning from the Football Championship Subdivision to FBS (Old Dominion), but regardless of opposition their numbers are impressive: Third nationally in scoring defense; second in sacks; eighth in interceptions; ninth in passing efficiency; first in red-zone conversion rate.
Whether Maryland can maintain such success at 82,300-seat Doak Campbell Stadium remains to be seen. To prepare for the raucous scene that awaits his team, Edsall installed speakers around his practice field to simulate the crowd noise. Only nine current Terps have ever played in Tallahassee before, and they know one slip-up can snowball against a team of Florida State’s caliber, so they have cautioned their teammates accordingly.
“With a lot of guys, when you’re in high school, you’ve been successful, so you’ve had people pat you on the back and things like that,” said quarterback C.J. Brown, who averages an ACC-high 331.5 yards of total offense per game. “You do have to think, it’s only four games. We haven’t even started conference play. There’s nothing to get excited about yet.”
Try telling Maryland fans that. When Edsall rides his bicycle around campus, he plugs in his earphones so tight and cranks up the volume so loud that the music drowns out any ambient noise. If fans have yelled congratulations while Edsall speeds by, he hasn’t heard it. But his players have. The Terps haven’t beaten a top eight opponent away from College Park since 1990, but they expect bedlam if, somehow, they pull it off.
“With each win, a lot of people it gets more exciting,” Cudjoe-Virgil said. All the excitement builds up on campus. I think that’s what’s going to happen.
He added: “When you beat a team that’s ranked higher than you, that’s a statement game. But we just want to get the win. That’s all.”