On Sunday morning, Maryland’s football players streamed into Glaser Auditorium inside Gossett Team House to discuss a season that seems to be falling apart. Coach Randy Edsall began by asking his players a question.
“Guys,” Edsall recalled saying. “What’s different now than, say, a few weeks ago? Well, how do we go get back to that? ”
The Terrapins were undefeated at September’s end, euphoric over the program’s best start since 2001, even if those four wins came over middling competition.
Since then, they have avoided a winless ACC record only because of a missed Virginia field goal on Oct. 12. The team bottomed out against Syracuse on Saturday, losing a 20-3 embarrassment at home that reignited questions about Edsall’s job security. So with three games remaining and bowl eligibility still attainable, Edsall wanted to compare the first four games with what has since transpired, and then discuss the future.
“I’m not going to panic,” Edsall said Tuesday. “I’m not going to panic. Because if I panic, then the whole team will panic and I’m not being the leader I need to be for my team and for the young people who are here. All I can do is go about the business of building this program and building it the right way so it can end up achieving the long-term success we’re going to have here.
“That’s the thing I’m going to do. Sometimes there’s things that are going to happen that are out of your control. We’ve got plenty meaningful games that will come up this last three, and we have to prepare our darndest to do everything we can to work to get wins. That’s what we’re doing to do and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Edsall’s news conference struck all the standard chords he does each week. Execution. Accountability. Fundamentals. Do everything to the best of your ability and play every down like it’s your last.
But the mention of panic shows how far the Terps have fallen since their first bye week in September. Edsall mentioned “rallying the troops,” and how a Maryland team gutted by injury has lost some of its most vocal leaders. He talked about the coaching staff, and how play-calling needs to be better. He discussed irritation, and how there’s plenty of it inside Gossett Team House, maybe now more so than ever.
“We’re frustrated,” he said. “We all are. Coaches are frustrated, players are frustrated. We’re making strides. The thing that was frustrating was we didn’t get the kind of effort that we expect out of ourselves last weekend. It’s a very young team. It’s a team that has made improvements and we’re talented and we’re going to continue to get more talented. I think sometimes people got ahead of themselves a little bit after the first four games or so. I remember people would tell me, ‘Oh, you’ve turned us around.’ You don’t turn it around in four games. It’s a building process.”
With three games remaining, starting with Saturday’s trip to Virginia Tech, Maryland has opportunities to right the ship. After the game against the Hokies, the Terrapins (5-4, 1-4) host Boston College (5-4, 2-3) for their home finale before ending the regular season with a trip to North Carolina State (3-6, 0-6). They have lost three straight and still haven’t won after Oct. 13 since Edsall arrived in College Park.
“It’s hard not to dwell on it,” quarterback C.J. Brown said. “The success level in the past hasn’t been there. It’s not like I’ve personally been through it, where we’ve been undefeated. We’re all going through it together. We’re all sticking together. Yeah we understand there’s no reason to panic right now. We still have plenty football to play.”
But as a young, injury-riddled team navigates the pitfalls of an up-and-down season and fans grow increasingly impatient over discussed improvements that haven’t materialized since ACC play began, Edsall knows panic might be the natural, human reaction.
Preventing that is the challenge.
“When you go through some of the things we’ve gone through, it’s getting guys back to refocus as to what it’s all about,” Edsall said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, getting guys to understand that regardless of what has taken place on the field, injuries, not finishing as well as we would have liked to finish and not capitalizing on things, you got to just go and turn the page, say let’s get back to what we do well.”
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