Maryland players met Monday to air frustrations in a spirited 90-minute discussion described as "very emotional." At least 20 players spoke, running back Sam Maldonado said, and talking points were relayed to coaches only after they entered toward the end.
Some players were near tears, voicing disappointments about a 3-3 record and two straight offensive performances that rank among the worst in the nation this season. "There were tingles in people's throats," Maldonado said.
The Terps, who will visit Clemson on Saturday, are three wins shy of becoming bowl eligible and still must combat a schedule that features three of the nation's strongest defensive teams: Florida State, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
"A lot of players had a lot of things to get off their chests," defensive tackle Robert Armstrong said. "It wasn't something that divided us at all. It was just very emotional."
Armstrong said that senior Kevin Eli and junior Shawne Merriman were among the most vocal. "If we were winning," Maldonado said, "we probably wouldn't have had it."
Maldonado, who has split carries with Josh Allen this season, said the team lost some confidence after the 19-16 overtime loss at West Virginia on Sept. 18. "I don't know why," he said.
The offensive problems now extend beyond quarterback play, which has received the majority of criticism this season. In the past two weeks, Maryland's offense has generated 81 and 91 yards. The only other teams in the country that failed to compile at least 100 yards in a game this season were Akron (84 against Virginia) and Northern Iowa (99 against Iowa State).
Eliminate Maryland's 685-yard performance in the Sept. 25 win against Duke and the Terps' offense would rank 115th nationally out of 117 teams.
"We're not playing with a lot of confidence right now," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen conceded.
Steffy to Start?
Friedgen expects to make a game-time decision on his starting quarterback for Saturday. Neither Joel Statham nor Jordan Steffy has played well in recent games.
But Friedgen said Steffy, the freshman backup who has seen second-half action the past two weeks, played especially well in Monday's practice.
Joel Statham dropped from first to eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense after his performances against Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, both home losses. The sophomore, who has started every game this season, has seven touchdown passes to offset seven interceptions.
Friedgen said he supports Byrd Stadium expansion if there is a "need for it." Asked if he feels there is a need, Friedgen said, "If we can continue to pack 52,000 in it, there is a need. We need to keep winning for us to do that. We have to keep our end of the deal."
Discussions have been underway to determine the financial feasibility to expand to at least 60,000 seats. An announcement is expected in the coming months. Maryland has sold out its first five home games this season, but a large contingent of fans departed long before the end of Saturday's 13-3 loss to N.C. State.
Left tackle Stephon Heyer is listed as doubtful for Saturday's game because of a sprained right knee. Heyer dislocated his kneecap against N.C. State, but returned to the game after the kneecap was taped back in place. His absence would place even more burden on an offensive line that has been banged up and beaten in recent weeks.
Three other key players, all of whom are suffering from less serious injuries, are probable. Defensive end Merriman has a grade two ankle sprain; Maldonado has a bruised shoulder and Allen has a hip pointer. . . .
Maryland's game against Florida State on Oct. 30 at Byrd Stadium will take place at 3:30 p.m.