Now ranked, Terps ex­pect best of Owls

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

In the af­ter­math of Mary­land’s im­pres­sive and im­prob­a­ble 63-20 vic­tory over then-No. 21 Syracuse on Saturday, first-year coach Mike Lock­sley said that the process of re­build­ing a cul­ture of win­ning foot­ball — which seems like an­cient his­tory for the Terps — is in its in­fancy.

Still, the process cer­tainly was sped up, not only by the one-sided re­sult but also by the na­tional rank­ing that fol­lowed. Mary­land, which re­placed the Or­ange at No. 21 in this week’s As­so­ci­ated Press Top 25 poll, is ranked for the first time since 2013. It is also the high­est the Terps have been ranked since 2006.

“We’re on a jour­ney right now as a pro­gram,” Lock­sley told re­porters in Col­lege Park at his weekly news con­fer­ence Tues­day. “We’re at stop two of a 12-day jour­ney. And so if you look at it as a jour­ney,

af­ter two games, are we happy where we are? Well, of course we are. But I said this to the team: It’s like driv­ing from Cal­i­for­nia to D.C., and you hop in your car.

“And Day One and Day Two, you pull up, and are we happy we’re in Phoenix? Yeah, we didn’t get a flat tire, we didn’t have an ac­ci­dent. But it’s still only Day Two of a 12-day tour, which means we’ve got a lot of the trip left. And so we’re happy where we’re at, but we also un­der­stand that there’s so much more to the jour­ney.”

The next stop will be in Philadel­phia on Saturday, when Mary­land takes on Tem­ple (1-0) at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field. The Terps (2-0) not only hope to avenge last year’s 35-14 loss to the then-win­less Owls, who came in as two-touch­down un­der­dogs, but with a bull’s-eye squarely on their backs.

“We also know that as we con­tinue to cre­ate this iden­tity, and we con­tinue on this jour­ney, we’re go­ing to get ev­ery­body’s best. We’re not go­ing to sneak up on any­body,” Lock­sley said. “I’m sure be­cause of the way we’ve played the last two weeks, I’m sure we’ll get the best ver­sion of Tem­ple.

“My job as the leader of the fam­ily is for them to get the best ver­sion of us, which we found the recipe for us to play the way we’ve played the last two weeks is the con­sis­tency of how we go about our work. The con­sis­tency pre­cedes the in­ten­sity. Ev­ery­body can get up to play a ranked op­po­nent.”

Since it has been six years since the Terps were ranked — in that case af­ter a 4-0 start punc­tu­ated by a 37-0 win over West Vir­ginia at M&T Bank Sta­dium — only a hand­ful of cur­rent play­ers who trans­ferred into the pro­gram have ex­pe­ri­enced the feel­ing of be­ing the hunted.

In his two sea­sons at Vir­ginia Tech, grad­u­ate trans­fer quar­ter­back Josh Jack­son spent much of his time on the field lead­ing a ranked team.

As a red­shirt fresh­man in 2017, the Hok­ies were No. 21 in the pre­sea­son poll and jumped as high as No. 12 af­ter a 4-0 start be­fore fin­ish­ing at No. 24 to cap a 9-4 sea­son. Last sea­son, Vir­ginia Tech was No. 20 in the pre­sea­son, then quickly moved up to No. 12 af­ter a 24-3 open­ing win at Florida State.

When the Hok­ies lost at home to Old Do­min­ion in their third game, and Jack­son was lost for the re­main­der of the sea­son with a bro­ken leg, Vir­ginia Tech fell out of the Top 25 and was ranked only once more the rest of the sea­son.

Jack­son said play­ing a ranked team for the first time, and play­ing on the road for the first time this sea­son doesn’t make a dif­fer­ence in terms of Mary­land’s prepa­ra­tion against Tem­ple. The Owls had a bye week last week af­ter beat­ing Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion foe Bucknell, 56-12, in its sea­son opener.

The “mind­set I don’t think changes,” said Jack­son, who has helped fuel Mary­land’s fast start by com­plet­ing 36 of 62 passes (58.1%) for 541 yards with seven touch­down passes and only one in­ter­cep­tion. “We’re just go­ing to do the best we can, get ready to go and try to be the best team we can.”

Se­nior cor­ner­back Mar­cus Lewis, who spent his first two sea­sons at Florida State, un­der­stands both sides as well. As a sopho­more, he played on a team ranked as high as No. 2 early in the sea­son and wound up fin­ish­ing ranked eighth at the end of a 10-3 sea­son. Af­ter com­ing to Mary­land last sea­son, Lewis has played in the shad­ows.

Lewis, who put his name into the new NCAA trans­fer por­tal last sea­son af­ter briefly leav­ing the team, said the oftre­peated phrase from Lock­sley — “Just be where your feet are” — has come into play as the Terps have tran­si­tioned from Howard to Syracuse and now to Tem­ple.

“Each day, take it one at a time, one prac­tice at a time and just try to get bet­ter each day,” Lewis said. “Don’t worry about any out­side noise, just fo­cus on Tem­ple this week at prac­tice. That’s it.”

Jack­son said Tues­day he wouldn’t spec­u­late on how far the Terps can go.

“I guess we’ll find out,” he said.

WILL NEW­TON/AP

Mary­land run­ning back Tayon Fleet-Davis cel­e­brates with coach Michael Lock­sley af­ter scor­ing a touch­down against Syracuse dur­ing the sec­ond half on Sept. 7.

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