They’re terrible. Well, maybe they aren’t so bad. No, they stink again. Or maybe they are really good. Oh wait, that was ugly. But they could be OK.
Welcome to the ups and downs of the past two-and-a-half years of Maryland Terrapins football. Back in 2011, shortly after Randy Edsall finished his first season at Maryland with two victories, Washington Post columnist and prominent author John Feinstein wrote the Terrapins needed to fire the coach ASAP.
Two weeks ago, the Terps were ranked No. 25 after winning their first four games. Morale was soaring, players were celebrating and talking about climbing to the top of the AP poll. Then Maryland went to Florida State on Saturday, took a 63-0 beating and resurrected the pessimists. In between, the Edsall era has had highs and lows, the lows often fueled by injury.
The Terps find themselves in a market dominated by six major pro franchises in Washington DC and Baltimore, meaning attention from media and fans often comes only when they appear to be really good or really bad, and there is a tendency to overreact.
But after Maryland pulled out a 27-26 victory over rival Virginia it appears Edsall has the Terps on solid, if not spectacular, footing, though even the coach admits the ebb and flow can take its toll.
“I’ll tell you the truth, I was nervous coming into this game,” Edsall told reporters Saturday. “I wasn’t sure. I saw things in practice this week, but with where we were and all the things that transpired going into the Florida State game, and then what happened in the Florida State game, I wasn’t sure coming into today. I thought our guys would respond and really do a good thing, but we’re young. We’re real young.”
The truth about the Terps likely is somewhere between the extremes that have been presented during Edsall’s tenure. Maryland may not actually be a Top 25 team at this point, but the Terrapins are clearly much better than the first two seasons, the second of which they were ravaged by injuries to the point a linebacker was playing quarterback.
Injuries are still a concern. Quarterback C.J. Brown, who has thrown for 1,125 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, was knocked out of the blowout in Tallahassee. But Caleb Rowe, a sophomore who was among last year’s injured QBs, filled in nicely and led a game-winning drive that included a conversion on 3rd-and-22.
“He is a gunslinger,” Edsall said of Rowe. “He has matured a lot from last year to this year. He can put that stuff behind him now. Last year, I am not sure he would have been able to put it behind him. Now he is more mature and understands. I thought he played well enough for us to win tonight, which is the bottom-line.”
Rowe’s performance might be an indicator Maryland has built depth to help overcome injuries. A win against Wake Forest would have Maryland bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
After that it is another stiff test against No. 3 Clemson, but there’s a sense among the Terps that after the Virginia win they may be more ready for the Tigers than they were for the Seminoles.
“It means a lot because it was a tough loss and we definitely had to bounce back,” linebacker L.A. Goree said. “It was definitely getting our pride back, our sense of Maryland pride. The fact that we got the victory, 5-1 that’s not too bad.”
Shane Mettlen is a veteran sports writer whose work has appeared on ESPN.com, AOL Sports and in several major newspapers. He also contributes to Washingtonian and Cavalier Corner magazines. Follow him on Twitter:@ShaneMettlen