Maryland is grating, not great
columbus, ohio — TheMaryland football team turned in its best performance of the season Saturday afternoon. The Terps also lost by 21 points.
If this is great, what exactly does good look like?
Maryland has been pushed around by Bowling Green at home and humbled byWest Virginia andMichigan this fall. Its coach was publicly undercut by media leaks about his imminent firing 48 hours before a game against the top-ranked defending champion. Its home stadium has offered all the enthusiasm of a ScottWalker rally, its prized quarterback recruit is giving television interviews about what he will do if the coach is fired and that coach — the beleaguered Randy Edsall — has resorted to quoting inspirational rap lyrics on Twitter.
What has gone right this season? Well, Maryland managed to remain tied withNo. 1 Ohio State until midway through the third quarter Saturday, when a surprisingly interesting game transformed into a 49-28 blowout. Also, no linebackers have lined up at quarterback.
Is this what Athletic Director Kevin Anderson had in mind when he dispatched Ralph Friedgen more than four years ago, a “strategic business decision” made with the goal of movingMaryland’s program “from good to great?” Because if this is how a great program operates, the good ones must feature open rebellion,
mismatched uniforms and livestock roaming the practice fields.
Over their past three losses, the Terps have been outscored by 88 points, the team’s worst stretch in one season since 1993. (Friedgen’s worst three-game losing streak? Howabout a 38point differential.) Edsall is 10-24 in conference games atMaryland; he could sweep the rest of this year’s meat grinder of a schedule, go undefeated in the Big Ten next season and still trail Friedgen’s conference mark. He’s 0-12 against ranked teams, with the last 10 losses all coming by double digits. It’s definitely not great, and it doesn’t much resemble good.
This isn’t armchairAD-ing, nor is it revisionist history. Edsall was a tough sell from the moment Anderson chose him as his first major hire in 2011, messily firing Friedgen just weeks after guaranteeing his return. The hiring was greeted with immediate howls, to the point that Anderson occasionally sounded like Edsall’s defense attorney during the introductory news conference.
“I believe we’ve hired one of the best football coaches in this country,” Anderson said then, before adding, “there’s a lot of people that don’t agree with that.”
“Randy Edsall: Alot of people don’t like this hire.” That’s some way to kick off a career.
Some fans never forgave Edsall for replacing Friedgen, for his brusque manner and early publicrelations miscues. But fewwould say he deserves an ending like this, if this is the end. He has spent a week answering questions about his job security, has seen reports on Internet sites and on “SportsCenter” that he’s on the verge of losing his job and was unable to say Saturday whether he would be coaching the Terps after their bye week.
“Those are things I don’t control,” Edsall said through a strained smile. “I don’t make those decisions. Somebody else makes those decisions. And as long as I’mthe coach, all’s I’m going to do is just domy job, do it the way I’ve been doing it, do what I’ve been asked to do.”
Even if players have tuned out Edsall, as some reports have indicated, they clearly haven’t quit on each other. Adefense that has given up doesn’t keep a locomotive like Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott— who rushed for 274 yards a week ago— to 106 yards. Aquarterback who has quit doesn’t chug through aNo. 1 team’s defense the way Perry Hills did; his 170 rushing yards were the most ever for a Mary land quarterback.
But the team’s best and gutsiest effort, delivered amid impossibleto-avoid distractions, still resulted in a fourth-quarter rout, and that’s one of Edsall’s problems. Many Maryland fans actually are reasonable about the status of this program; they have mentioned words like “competitive” and “respectable” in recent conversations.
If Edsall has achieved improved results in the classroom, upgraded facilities and landed a promising recruiting class— as his dwindling defenders argue— those pluses are overwhelmed by lopsided scoreboards. The Big Ten Network’ s Matt Mill en used words like “pathetic” and “embarrassing” to describe Maryland’s performance against Michigan last week, and Saturday’s promising start was undone by a 28-0 avalanche to end the game.
“It’s the margin of defeat that is just humiliating,” Cindy Skiles, a five-figure annual donor, toldme before the Ohio State loss. “We’re just getting rolled over, and that’s not much fun.”
Insiders describe Edsall’s relationship with Anderson as strained at times, especially recently. Fans and donors seem to have coalesced into two groups: the apathetic and the openly hostile. Edsall never hadmany allies in the local media, and he demonstrated why Saturday, leaving the podium in anger after a question about pregame handshakes. WhenevenDwayne Haskins— that prized quarterback recruit— is tweeting about potential Edsall replacements, it’s not hard to imagine the end.
Still, these awkward past few days felt undignified, at best. What would have happened ifMaryland beat the Buckeyes? Howdo you stuff that toothpaste back into its tube? Is the extra time to find a successor worth the perception that this program will publicly dangle its leader over a plank?
The person left to answer those questions will be Anderson. The scrutiny on theADwould be withering inmany years, but with a top-five basketball program conveniently set to ceremonially begin practice next weekend, the basketball-mad school might be willing to ignore its current football mess. And Anderson would be filling a job thatmay be more desirable today than it was four years ago: better facilities, a better conference and a less imposing act to follow.
Still, the pressure to find a winner hasn’t gone away. Anderson wanted football greatness. His last hire hasn’t delivered. His next hire better.
Maryland quarterback PerryHills is pressured by Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee in the Terrapins’ third straight blowout loss.