COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It was a fun couple of weeks for the University of Maryland football team, wasn’t it?
At one point, everyone in the country was talking about them. They had spiffy new uniforms thanks to the full support of one of the world’s biggest apparel companies in Under Armour.
Coming off a season where they won nine games (including the Military Bowl), they introduced a fun to watch new offense under new Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton. It helped them claim an impressive Labor Day victory over the University of Miami in a game seen by much of the country on ESPN.
Even in a Week 3 defeat at the hands of the West Virginia Mountaineers, the Terrapins mounted an impressive 2nd half comeback that made fans believe they were capable of playing alongside the best teams in the country.
They did it all under new head coach Randy Edsall, just a year removed from leading UConn to a Big East title and Fiesta Bowl appearance. Edsall had done and said the right at every turn since his arrival in College Park, allowing him to receive immediate popularity from the Maryland faithful. Edsall kept the momentum of the new uniforms going by taking to Twitter to announce the teams’ weekly duds. A mostly apathetic fan base was invigorated, with Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium sold out for the first two games of the season.
It was certainly fun while it lasted.
Maryland’s exciting start took a painful turn Saturday, as they were crushed 38-7 by Temple University in front of a less than enthusiastic announced crowd of 39,102. An “announced” crowd of 39,102 if you missed it the first time.
After looking like a “team on the rise”, a “budding national power” or a “program at a turning point” for the first three weeks of the season (which included an early bye following their Monday night win over the Hurricanes), the Terps’ display Saturday could only be fairly described as piss poor.
The team was outgained 425 to 240 by their MAC opponent, including a 285 to 45 advantage for Temple on the ground. The Terps could not have purchased an answer for Temple RB Bernard Pierce, who gauged the Terps for 149 yards and 5 TD’s on 32 carries. Maryland managed just 14 first downs on the day compared to Temple’s 21. The Owls held the ball for 41:01 while Maryland managed just 18:59 of possession.
Sometimes a game is closer than a final score might indicate. In no ways was Saturday’s thumping any closer for Maryland than the final score indicated. The Terps indeed suffered a good old-fashioned ass kicking at the hands of a Temple program which clearly IS on the rise under the guidance of new head coach Steve Addazio
Just in case I hadn’t yet done a fair job of describing Maryland’s ineptitude in defeat, here are some individual numbers. QB Danny O’Brien completed just 17 of 33 passes for 153 yards and an interception. The Terps’ leading rusher was backup quarterback CJ Brown, who managed 29 yards on the ground after making a late game blowout cameo (he also guided the team’s only scoring drive).
The Terps were equally awful on both offense and defense.
“There’s nowhere to point the finger” OL Andrew Gonnella said after the game. “It’s a team failure and we just have to come back fierce.”
The outcome alone wasn’t the worst part about the game though.
The worst part about Saturday’s game was that for all of the progress it appeared the program had made early in the season, the scene Saturday reeked of familiarity.
Plenty of empty seats? Check. No national interest? Check. Little local or regional interest? Check. Uninspired effort against what was believed to be an inferior opponent? Check. Disastrous result to leave a team 1-2 despite having not played a road game yet on the season? Check.
Yes, Saturday’s game had the stench of Maryland football all over it.
At every turn during Maryland Football’s “rebranding” period, I have stated that nothing they are doing will matter if it isn’t paired with winning.
Without allowing too much publicity to Charlie Sheen, Saturday’s debacle was about as far from “winning” as a team can be.
Edsall went into full coach-speak mode again after the defeat, saying things like “we’ll get better and we’ll move forward”, “nobody said it was gonna be easy”, “we’re not gonna use any excuses” and “it’s their duty and their obligation to go out there and play as hard as they can for 60 minutes.”
But it will take much more than coach-speak to truly change the culture of a program that has simply failed to find relevance for the better part of its history.
The coaching staff and the uniforms are different, but nothing has truly changed yet in College Park.
Edsall was right in describing Saturday’s loss as “embarrassing.” It was absolutely was.
And for a program hoping to make strides and truly find themselves “on the rise”, the embarrassment proved Maryland football still has an incredible amount of work to be done.