The mood of the letters received by Maryland Coach Bobby Ross this week has not reflected patience and understanding on the part of the football team's supporters.
"There have been quite a few that express a degree of frustration," Ross said yesterday. "They've got to take it out on somebody, so it might as well be me."
The frustration has surfaced because Maryland, picked in two preseason rankings as the best team in the nation, has a 2-2 record, including last weekend's 20-0 loss at Michigan, and has dropped out of the top 20.
"I'm a little bit surprised by the reaction," Ross said. "But I'm not going to allow those letters to make me dwell on it. I don't like defeat at all, but we didn't lose to any bushwhack football teams (Penn State and Michigan).
"They're frustrated; I am, too. Nobody's put more into this season than I have . . . I don't think our program has taken a step back-ward . . . "
Ross promised, however, that his Terrapins will pick up a step in intensity this week against North Carolina State and for the rest of the season. "We're going to play this football game like it is for the national championship," he said. "We're not going to do a lot of hollering and hooting on the practice field this week. But we are going to do things right."
Ross said he regards the game Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., as Maryland's most important of the season. "Why do I feel that way? Because our pride . . . has been hurt. We've been wounded perhaps . . .
"The Maryland football program isn't dead," Ross said. "The '85 season isn't over. We're going to play some damn good football the rest of the season. If you want to, come on out and see it. We're going to play some good football, I promise you that.
"I promise it . . . Let's wait and see where we are at the end of the season."
Ross said he feels quarterback Stan Gelbaugh has taken undue criticism in the media over the two very poor performances by the offense this season. Pressed on the subject, Ross said the criticism has affected Gelbaugh's play.
"I'm not being protective of him," Ross said. "I'm just trying to be fair. I think I'm pretty damn objective. Things are being said (and written) about him that are just unjust.
"I've been in his situation (as a college quarterback). And for him to see these things does affect him. If there's any finger to point, direct it at me. That's what I get paid for. I'm a little perturbed that you read certain things about him that are not justified."
Gelbaugh, in four games, has completed 50 percent of 106 passes; averaged 180 yards passing per game; thrown seven interceptions and three touchdowns; and had a rather high number of passes dropped.
Gelbaugh, Ross said, will definitely keep his starting job this week. Several other offensive players might not be as fortunate. Ross said he wouldn't be afraid to put in backup quarterback Ken Vierra if the offense played as poorly as it did last week.
One position change could come at tight end, where Chris Knight is challenging Ferrell Edmunds. Knight has been one of the most improved players on offense. Edmunds, by far, has more talent, but he has not played to his potential in a couple of games and has some fluid on a knee.
Another position up for grabs apparently is place kicker. First-year starter Ramon Paredes, who has made only two of six field goal tries, is being challenged in practice by freshman Dan Plocki.
"Ramon's got to keep his head down," Ross said of Paredes' missed kicks. "He's pulling his head up, looking to see where the ball is going."
Ross said he wouldn't decide on several offensive starters until the end of the week.
One of Maryland's problems on offense this season has been a lack of "big plays." The longest rushing gain has been 23 yards by Tommy Neal and the Terrapins have had only one other running play for as many as 20 yards. The longest passing gain, 39 yards, came on a deflection caught by Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof, and there has been only one other reception of longer than 30 yards, that on a play started as a short route by Edmunds.
"I have a greater concern for breaking a long one running," Ross said. "We've got to do a better job downfield (blocking), though. And I am sort of concerned about that."
Sometimes, the offense has had problems picking up what Ross calls "tough yardage" inside the 30. Last week, the Terrapins had a first down on the Michigan 13 and first and goal from the nine but couldn't score. "We've usually eaten up situations like that," Ross said.