COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A close loss at the hands of a Top 10 opponent wouldn’t usually be so frustrating for a young team in their first season under a new head coach.
That’s not the case for the University of Maryland.
The Terrapins (2-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) suffered a 56-45 setback at the hands of the eighth ranked Clemson University Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) in front of a Homecoming crowd of 47,961 at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. The Terps lead throughout much of the game, holding a 35-17 advantage early in the second half.
Yet even when they held such an advantage, there was never a comfortable feeling amongst fans in attendance and watching at home.
After pulling reigning ACC Rookie of the Year the previous week in a loss at Georgia Tech, head coach Randy Edsall stuck with previous backup CJ Brown Saturday night, claiming the choice was a “gametime decision” between the two.
Brown provided plenty of offense, throwing for 177 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 162 yards and another TD. Brown was plagued however by accuracy issues for a second straight week, completing just 17 of 35 passes. He was on multiple occasions betrayed by his wide receivers, whose inability to catch the football has become a season-long theme. Brown was intercepted just once, although Tigers defenders suffered from the same inabilities that have been so familiar for Terps receivers.
Edsall offered little analysis of Brown’s effort (or much of anything else) after the game.
“I gotta really look at the film and take a look at everything, but quickly when you just look at the numbers-CJ did a lot of good things out there.”
Edsall also declined to discuss Brown’s future as the team’s starting quarterback, instead deferring to the depth chart that will be released Tuesday. It would seem likely though for Brown to remain under center when the team travels to Tallahassee to face Florida State next Saturday.
Brown was disappointed to have lost his first career start and took full responsibility for his accuracy issues postgame.
“I gotta make those throws” said the quarterback. “Me and Danny have been practicing all week and we’ve known these (receivers) since I’ve been here. I missed a couple throws.”
There is a possibility that even if Boomer Esiason had played quarterback for Maryland Saturday night the Terps would not have been able to do enough offensively to outscore Clemson.
The Tigers received a school-record 345 all-purpose yards from WR/KR Sammy Watkins, including three touchdowns. RB Andre Ellington tallied 212 yards on 24 carries including two more touchdowns. The Tigers scored six straight times they touched the ball in the second half, including an 89 yard kickoff return TD from thetrue freshman Watkins.
A full-strength team would have been hard-pressed to slow down the Tiger assault. A Maryland unit playing without LB’s Kenny Tate, Darin Drakeford and Demetrius Hartfield; DL’s Isaiah Ross and Andre Monroe and S Matt Robinson faced a nearly impossible task.
Given the evidence already stated, it feels like I should be more positive and upbeat about the Terps’ performance against such an outstanding opponent.
Of course, you already read the headline.
In terms of practicality, Maryland finished Saturday night’s affair with more injuries, as both LB Avery Graham and WR Kevin Dorsey were known to have left the game. Edsall offered no further information (or even confirmation that the injuries even existed) postgame, instead reminding reporters the school would release injury information as necessary later in the week based on ACC requirements.
Also on the practical side, Maryland’s hopes of bowl eligibility fade based on the loss. The Terps now must win four of their final six games to get eligible, with a schedule that does include four games they will be favored to win. After the trip to FSU, Maryland hosts Virginia and Boston College in back to back weeks before a neutral site date with Notre Dame (at FedEx Field in Landover) and visits to Wake Forest and North Carolina State to finish the season. After finishing 9-4 a season ago and returning an impressive quarterback, missing out on bowl eligibility would be disappointing for Maryland even with a new head coach.
Veering away from the world of practicality, the quarterback situation could be the subject of a sequel to Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” After an outstanding freshman campaign, Danny O’Brien is now relegated to backup duties behind a quarterback his same age. While O’Brien was (understandably) not made available to reporters after the game, it would be fair to assume he wouldn’t be thrilled to have been demoted.
His future in the program (or elsewhere) will always be tied to whatever level of success Brown has in new Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton’s system. Edsall and Crowton will be scrutinized by fans and media alike moving forward based on what the two quarterbacks do moving forward.
This is a football program facing a number of issues.
Edsall has preached patience in his first season, which is seemingly fair for a first year coach to request. It is absolutely fair however to question where the program has gone in the last ten months since firing longtime head coach Ralph Friedgen after a successful season and hiring Edsall.
Ten months ago, it did not appear that Maryland has a program in need of being torn down and rebuilt.
We can only hope that after being torn down anyway, the program will end up a finished product worthy of the process.
NOTES: Maryland’s game at Florida State will kick off at 3:30pm (ABC)……Hear from Edsall, Brown and RB Davin Meggett in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net