COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In case you missed it (and I have a hunch that says many of you did), the University of Maryland football team lost 31-13 to to the University of Virginia Saturday at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins (2-7, 1-5 ACC) appeared out of sync and lacked composure while the Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2 ACC) were opportunistic and balanced.
There were a number of empty seats throughout the stadium despite the Senior Day festivities, fans in attendance were heard booing and some even began chants of “Fire Edsall.” Those fans were voicing their displeasure at the fact that the loss eliminated the team’s chances of reaching bowl eligibility in their first season under new head coach Randy Edsall.
It was another brutal Saturday in a season of brutal Saturdays for this Terps team, decimated by injuries and lackluster play after a 9-4 campaign a season ago and the firing of popular long-term head coach Ralph Friedgen.
In the certain of the season-long disappointment has been sophomore quarterback Danny O’Brien, the reigning ACC Rookie of the Year. O’Brien came into the season with lofty expectations, labeled by some as a potential dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. Instead of performing at that level, O’Brien has struggled to fit new Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton’s scheme, dealt with drops from receivers and has been forced to split time with fellow sophomore CJ Brown.
In Saturday’s loss, O’Brien started the game before giving way to Brown in the second quarter. The two then (mostly) alternated playing time the rest of the way with little effectiveness. O’Brien finished the day 16/36 for 241 yards and two interceptions. (Brown was 4/7 for 28 yards with a touchdown and a pick, along with 24 yards on the ground.)
With the team struggling and the offense not clicking, much has been made by Terps fans and analysts who cover/follow the team about O’Brien’s future in College Park. Many believe the team’s unwillingness to stick with the sophomore will ultimately lead to him deciding to look elsewhere after the season for a place where he could transfer and become the primary starter in an offense more suited to his abilities.
Those talking about the possibility are most not connected to O’Brien whatsoever.
“I haven’t even (given) that any thought to be honest” O’Brien said following the Terrapins’ setback. “Right now it’s just about beating Notre Dame.”
(The Terps next face the Fighting Irish Saturday, November 12 at FedEx Field in Landover.)
“I feel like if I’m thinking about my future beyond next week I’m kinda cheating my teammates just because they’re counting on me when I’m in there (and not when I’m in there) to make plays” O’Brien added. “I’m not really gonna think about that. I’m here and I’m proud to be here.”
The frustration has been evident for O’Brien this season, as the team entered with hopes of improving upon their 2010 season, which ended with a win over East Carolina in the Military Bowl. The Terrapins have just one victory over a FBS level opponent since defeating the Pirates, their season opening Labor Day win over Miami.
It would be impossible for O’Brien to thrive while still splitting time with Brown no matter what each skill set allows for. Edsall said of the dilemma, “I would love to just be able to play one guy.” He then went on to explain that both quarterbacks offered valuable skills and could have roles no matter who the future starter would be.
Edsall made another comment that was much more appropriate about the situation.
“It’s just not all on the quarterbacks.”
It certainly isn’t. The struggles of the offense include the receivers, the Offensive Line and probably the coaching staff as well. Edsall should by no means be absolved from blame when it comes to the apparent regression of the starter he inherited. Edsall has gone on and on about doing everything based on giving the team the “best opportunity to win”, but the only thing the team hasn’t done much of is…well…win. It would be safe to say that based on the evidence we’ve seen on the field, Edsall’s argument for playing both quarterbacks just doesn’t hold up.
That said, the offense has lacked rhythm and the quarterback carousel probably hasn’t helped. But even if the offense were more consistent, the inexperience on the defensive side of the ball and the woeful play of many special teams units would probably spell trouble for the Terps in general. The Terrapins have problems that go well beyond the quarterbacks.
But O’Brien was supposed to be the player that could guide this team through all of that.
That clearly hasn’t been the case.
It would be understandable if O’Brien ultimately decided there was another place where his skill set could be better utilized. It would be understandable if O’Brien ultimately decided he didn’t want to go into another season expecting to have to split time with another quarterback.
It would be understandable if O’Brien were wearing a uniform not made by Under Armour in the future.
It would just be disappointing considering all of the other problems facing the program at the time.