Maryland Guards Against Late-Night Letdowns
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
In their previous two night games, Maryland's football players engaged in the same routine: During the sunlight of game day, they spent hours upon hours fidgeting, napping, watching television and otherwise killing time in an unfamiliar hotel. By nightfall, they looked unfocused and were thoroughly outclassed by seemingly inferior opponents.
No one is blaming the two losses solely on too much downtime, but Terrapins Coach Ralph Friedgen is not taking any chances for the team's third night game of the season Thursday at Virginia Tech. The Terrapins will arrive at their team hotel later than usual Wednesday and are expected to fill game day Thursday with more meetings to keep players' minds occupied and focused.
"I am trying to see if that makes a difference," Friedgen said.
The 23rd-ranked Terrapins, who are in sole possession of first place in the ACC's Atlantic Division, have won six day games and lost their only two night games in decisive and stunning fashion.
"I don't think it contributed to the losses," quarterback Chris Turner said. "I just don't like it. I don't think it makes us play any better or worse, but if you ask most people, they don't like sitting around all day waiting."
On Sept. 6, Maryland was two big plays from being shut out by a Middle Tennessee team that has won just one other game this season. And on Oct. 4, the Terrapins looked so dysfunctional in every measurable way at Virginia that Friedgen said reporters must be wondering whether he threw the game.
Players have accepted responsibility for two of the worst losses in Friedgen's head coaching career, but they acknowledge that waiting around all day for kickoff was draining and said they would have preferred to have played earlier in the day.
"To attribute the losses to that, I don't think so," offensive lineman Dane Randolph said. "It is just a long time to wait."
Randolph said evening road games are the only occasions in which the players spend at least 24 hours at the team hotel. Consider the Virginia game: The team bus was scheduled to arrive at the Doubletree Charlottesville at 12:45 p.m. Friday and players did not leave for Scott Stadium until 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Between check-in and check-out, players ate lunch, killed time, attended unit meetings, took part in a devotional, killed time, attended more meetings, ate a snack and killed more time.
On Oct. 4, players were scheduled to wake up at 10 a.m., but some got up earlier because they were not used to sleeping late. They attended an optional team breakfast at 10:30, a walk-through in the parking lot between 11:15 and 11:45, and then had more than four hours to kill before boarding the bus for the stadium.
While night games, particularly Thursday nights at Lane Stadium, provide prominent stages, players said the benefit of early games is that they wake up immediately ready to play because the game plan and key points are fresh in their minds from the meetings the night before. For night games, they spend hours watching the clock tick.