They rushed the field, because for many Maryland football players this feeling was entirely new. With their overtime win at Virginia Tech on Saturday, the Terrapins had become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010, so they celebrated in style. None did so more enthusiastically than Coach Randy Edsall, who after the biggest moment of his Maryland tenure acted like a human jumping bean.
But before long, a new form of reality set in, leading to a dual narrative at Gossett Team House this week: The Terps are elated to have qualified for college football’s postseason, but realize that there are two regular season games remaining, and that’s what they say matters.
“It’s about time we got a good plane ride back,” defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said of the trip home from Blacksburg, Va. “But as soon as I got comfortable in my seat, I started thinking about Boston College.”
Edsall has been, predictably, reluctant to bask in last weekend’s victory, even though it was clearly the biggest win in his three seasons as Maryland’s coach and helped quiet the talk about his job security. He celebrated after quarterback C.J. Brown scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Hokies, but has since moved on to the remaining games on the schedule.
“We know the goals they have and what they want to accomplish,” Edsall said this week. “They knew the magic number is the least to be eligible [for a bowl game]. We got that, and we have two more games to go. Now I think what they want to do is just continue to work to get better than what we were last week, knowing they do have six wins under their belt, but they’re not satisfied with six wins.”
His players also acknowledged that getting to six wins was a big deal, a preseason goal fulfilled, but also pointed to a yet-unfinished schedule to avoid appearing, it seemed, too happy.
“It was a huge win for us to get that monkey off our back,” said Brown, who topped 100 yards rushing for the first time since September. “Six [wins] just makes you eligible. You’re not guaranteed anything. We’ve got two more, eight’s ideal, obviously. We’re going to focus on this week to get number seven.”
That means welcoming Boston College (6-4, 3-3 ACC), another team that clinched bowl eligibility last weekend and is now looking to improve upon its postseason standing under first-year Coach Steve Addazio, who lost to the Terps last season as the coach at Temple.
While Maryland (6-4, 2-4) celebrated at Lane Stadium, Eagles running back Andre Williams was hammering North Carolina State for an ACC-record 339 rushing yards. Stewart saw that statistic while on the team’s charter flight home from Roanoke, and said it soured his mood. Williams, the nation’s leading rusher, is “putting up crazy numbers,” Maryland defensive back A.J. Hendy said, and has a legitimate shot at 2,000 yards this season. The Terps will have to stop him without leading tackler Cole Farrand, who will miss his second game in three weeks, this time with a shoulder injury.
Maryland’s injury-riddled offense, meanwhile, took a giant leap forward last Saturday, shrugging off several weeks of turnover-prone play to score four touchdowns against the conference’s top defense. And even with a battered receiving corps that has been trimmed to just five members — including converted quarterback Ricardo Young — Brown had a career game against the Hokies, accounting for three touchdowns.
Around this time during Edsall’s past two seasons, Maryland had been mathematically eliminated from bowl eligibility and thus was playing only for pride. Saturday marks the program’s final ACC home game ever, one more Senior Day before moving to the Big Ten next season, but this group of 16 honorees will enjoy a different mood to their ceremony, because this time it doesn’t mark the end.
“Any time you win, you’re going to gain confidence, you’re going to smile a little bit more,” Edsall said, and then the conversation turned again to Boston College.