The loss stung hard, maybe more than the rest. The Maryland football team hosted Connecticut last season seeking the program’s first 3-0 start since 2001. Undefeated, with a true freshman starting at quarterback. Imagine that.
Instead, the Terrapins dropped a three-point decision to the Huskies, a game to this day the players swear they should have won. The mistakes were obvious: A third-quarter fumble inside Maryland territory that Connecticut converted into a field goal; allowing a critical touchdown drive that milked more than four minutes off the clock and put the Huskies ahead for good; a miserable closing series beginning at the Huskies 32-yard line that, had the Terps even gained a few more yards, would have put them within field goal range.
On Saturday evening, when 2-0 Maryland visits Connecticut, the boos will rain down upon Coach Randy Edsall. The Huskies’ fans will jeer their former coach of 12 seasons, the one who bolted for College Park after a Fiesta Bowl loss. They will direct their hostility not at the players on the field, but at the man wearing the headset on the sidelines. Even so, in bracing for the first road game of this season, the Terps know what to expect.
“He’s said that’s probably going to happen,” linebacker Matt Robinson said Tuesday. “He just tells us we need to be 3-0. A lot of us felt bad that we lost last year, just because they weren’t better than us and we let one get away. That’s more of a motivation than him getting back up there.
“I definitely feel like he wants to beat them, but I really think he’s approaching it as another game. He hasn’t hinted to us it’s any different, so we won’t approach it any differently.”
This makes sense. The only direct connection Robinson and his teammates have to Connecticut is last season’s loss, and a tangential one through Edsall. The former riles them up far more than the latter. And if the Terps felt any need to protect their coach, any win-one-for-the-Gipper sentiment, Edsall has quashed that with his tunnel-vision approach to the game itself, by not discussing any emotions that might stem from it. Any beef between Connecticut and its former coach, Edsall’s current players say, has no business surfacing during game week.
“That’s probably something you have to talk to him about,” cornerback Dexter McDougle said. “I just know we’re going to take it as another game on the schedule. Next opponent up. That’s how we’re going to take it. If coach has something going on right there, that’s something you have to talk to him about.”
Redemption. That’s the motivation. Maryland feels it has unfinished business with Connecticut, regardless of whether Huskies feel the same about Edsall.
“We feel like we let some games slip away last year,” McDougle said. “For whatever reason, that’s last year. Not really focused on last year. Just worried about this year now. We’re rolling right now, just want to keep it going.”