They lined the speakers against the sidelines and through them thumped crowd noise. Decibels of the stuff. Every last scream and drone and tomahawk chop echoed in the Maryland football players’ ears during practice this week. It’s loud and that’s the point, to simulate the environment at Doak Campbell Stadium. Manufacture the noise that makes play-calling a nightmare. Pretend, so when Saturday’s game at No. 8 Florida State arrives nothing is a surprise.
These Terrapins haven’t played before a crowd quite like the Seminoles faithful this season, and have spent nearly two weeks preparing accordingly. “It’s annoying,” running back Brandon Ross said. “But it’s something we have to get used to.”
In 11 games, Maryland has never won at Florida State. Of course, 10 years had elapsed since the Terps last beat West Virginia before Maryland destroyed their border-state rivals, 37-0, on Sept. 21. Now the talk shifts to a more lopsided, damning streak.
“It’s not really being addressed, because we’re not focusing on that, just like we didn’t focus on that with West Virginia,” linebacker Cole Farrand said this week. “I know it’s in the back of everybody’s minds. Even though we won’t address it, I know people are thinking about it. It’s not the biggest thing, but this is our season, whatever happened in the past happened in the past.
“It’s not even about the history. We’re just thinking why not because we think we’re a great team that can do down there and surprise some people.”
Even if Maryland’s national recognition has risen since the West Virginia game, resulting in its first top 25 ranking of the Randy Edsall era and consideration as an upset candidate this weekend, beating the Seminoles in Tallahassee would truly surprise. The Las Vegas line tops two touchdowns. Florida State hasn’t scored less than 40 points this season. And yes, there’s that 11-game losing streak.
“We haven’t won there,” Edsall said. “That’s something we have to do, go down and make sure we focus on what we can control and what we can do.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s signal-based system can help. As the referees wind the clock, backup quarterbacks Caleb Rowe, Ricardo Young and Perry Hills step onto the field together. Everyone wears headsets and baseball caps. They wave their arms, like third base coaches signaling bunt. The huddle opens up and everyone watches. That’s the play call.
Snap counts and audibles might cause problems, but at least the basic assignments get relayed visually.
“Really we just communicate through signals, signals from the sideline, with each other,” Ross said. “We actually can hear each other a little bit, but it’s hard to hear.”
Locksley has visited Doak Campbell many times, during his first term in College Park from 1997 to 2002. But he has new weapons at his disposal, a diverse fireworks show of Ross, quarterback C.J. Brown and wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.
Besides, the bye has afforded him an extra week to light the display and listen to the music.
“We have the whole two weeks,” he said. “For me it’s a little nerve-wracking with the music turned up loud. For two straight weeks, I think it’s good for our players. It makes them focus in, have to really pay attention to seeing the ball and locking in from a focus standpoint. Again, what a great atmosphere. It’s what coach shared with our guys, what a great opportunity to go play in front of a big crowd, and on the road, having played down there it’s a great atmosphere.”
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