There was no shortage of cringe-inducing moments for Maryland’s football fans Saturday, as the Terrapins littered the field with missed tackles, dropped balls and botched field goals en route to their fourth consecutive defeat.
While disappointed by the 28-17 loss to Boston College, Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said he saw nothing that shook his faith in first-year Coach Randy Edsall, whose squad fell to last in the ACC’s Atlantic Division (2-6, 1-4), or the direction in which the program is headed.
For starters, Anderson noted, the Terrapins have been devastated by injuries, namely to linebacker Kenny Tate and guard Andrew Gonnella, both team captains. But on the positive side, Anderson pointed out that Maryland has two competitive quarterbacks in C.J. Brown, who started Saturday’s game amid driving rain and snow, and Danny O’Brien, who threw for one touchdown and ran for another to narrow a gaping first-half deficit for a second consecutive game.
Maryland must win its remaining games to be eligible for a bowl game — a daunting prospect, with improving Virginia, Notre Dame and surprising Wake Forest to come.
Asked during a third-quarter interview if he’d be disappointed if Maryland failed to qualify for the postseason, Anderson said: “I hate to lose, so yes. Every game we’re not successful, I’m disappointed because we’re playing the game to win. That’s the bottom line. There are no moral victories or anything else. We’re here to win.”
As to the direction of Maryland football, which went 9-4 and won the Military Bowl under Ralph Friedgen, Anderson referenced the NCAA’s recently enacted academic reforms, which will require teams to perform in the classroom in order to qualify for postseason play.
“I know I hired the right person,” Anderson said. “I know particularly, with what the NCAA established about how we’re going to operate in the future, that Randy Edsall has demonstrated that he can build and sustain a program with student-athletes who will achieve in the classroom and on the field.”
That said, based on Saturday’s game, Anderson identified obvious ways Maryland can improve in the short term, with the Terrapins surrendering 372 rushing yards to a team that hadn’t rushed for more than 193 yards all season — and that came against Massachusetts of the Football Championship Subdivision.
“The one thing we have to start doing is tackling, and we have to start catching the ball,” Anderson said. “Anybody who watched the game saw that we had many opportunities out there, and we have just dropped the ball and we’ve missed tackles. I’m not throwing anybody under the bus, but that’s just plain and simple if you watch the game.”
Anderson also argued that Maryland’s linemen are undersize on both sides of the ball (though that was not the case against Boston College), something he believes can be remedied through recruiting.
“I don’t see it being a long-term project or an overhaul,” Anderson said. “I think we’re a couple of pieces away from having the entire puzzle.”
Anderson fired Friedgen, a two-time ACC coach of the year, last December and replaced him with Edsall, who led Connecticut from Division I-AA status to the NCAA’s elite Football Bowl Subdivision classification.
“We were competitive up to the last couple games,” Anderson noted. “We played Clemson close; we played Georgia Tech close. All of those were ranked teams. We beat Miami. The injuries have been devastating.”
Saturday’s game had zero national buzz, pitting the last-place team in the ACC’s Atlantic Division (Boston College) against its second-to-last-place team. And on a dreary October afternoon, it drew an announced crowd of 29,945, although the turnout appeared barely half that.
Anderson attributed the low turnout to the weather and voiced confidence that as the Terrapins’ performance improves, so will attendance.
“If you believe and you support the program,” Anderson said, “you support the program.”