Throughout the summer, the Miami and West Virginia games loomed as an important, though not critical, opening two-game stretch for first-year Maryland football coach Randy Edsall. The games against marquee opponents would establish an early tone for Edsall’s first season. The Terrapins came close to winning both. Had they done so, they would have been hailed as one of the nation’s most exciting teams, complete with bold uniforms, a dynamic offense and a flair for the dramatic. As it turned out, they spilt those games, winning the more important game against an ACC opponent.
Attendance at Byrd Stadium was impressive for both games. The crowd during the West Virginia game offered a few mild boos, seemingly at the play calling, before Maryland rallied. But overall, I was struck by how loyal the fans were, remaining in the stadium despite the threat of a potential blowout when the margin was 24 points in the third quarter.
The question of how much the offense in general and quarterback Danny O’Brien specifically were affected by the absences of suspended senior receivers Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree is difficult to answer. In hindsight, O’Brien appeared to target Kevin Dorsey, his best wide receiver, predominantly in the first half, which is not a surprise. But O’Brien spread the ball around more in the second half. On Sunday, Edsall elaborated at length on O’Brien, who had three interceptions in the 37-31 loss to West Virginia.
“I had talked to Danny about this,” Edsall said. “The thing you have to do when you are in a team situation, you have to trust everybody. I think in the first half, I think Danny let some things not allow him to be as productive as he needed to be. I think he didn’t trust — not that he didn’t have a reason to trust — but he was getting too hooked in because there were some other guys who weren’t out there who might have been out there previously.
“I don’t think he let the game take its natural flow. I think he kind of predetermined some things and was going to throw the ball to certain people without seeing what the defense was doing even though things were there.
“We talked to him a little bit about it in the first half, at halftime we talked to him more and I think in the second half you saw him just start going with his reads and doing the things he is supposed to do and the ball was being spread around and he was being a lot more effective. His production was much more effective.
“Really, it was just poor decisions, and again he has seen them. I know that he has watched it. I don’t think he will make those mistakes again. It is hard to go without throwing interceptions when you are throwing as much as we are. The thing that I just tried to let him know, too, is that sometimes an incomplete is like a completion because not every throw is going to be there, and if it is not you throw it away and live to play another down. That’s all part of the learning process.
“The young man is only a sophomore. He has only played in a dozen, or 13, 14 games in his career. He is still learning, still growing, and I am glad we have him because he is very good. But sometimes you have some days that are not as good as other days. And everybody has high expectations for him and he has high expectations for himself. The guys in the NFL, Peyton Manning has thrown three interceptions before and other guys. I know this: He will learn from it and be better for it. I know he is anxious to — he probably wishes he could go out there right now and play another game and get this one out of his mind and go out there and play better.”