The Terrapins are now 2-6, a mark which would have been unthinkable before the season. With bowl hopes nearly faded, what is there left to play for? The players tell us the answer to that question.
COLLEGE PARK, Md - In what has been a disappointing season for the Maryland Terrapins, Saturday's game against Boston College might have been their low point. Losses to quality teams like Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida state are understandable, but a near blowout loss to a team that entered the game just 1-6? That one stings.
Last place in the Atlantic division was on the line when the game started on Saturday. Boston College played like they knew what the stakes were. Maryland did not. They could not stop the run (BC had about 370 rushing yard on the day) and their offense couldn't get anything going until the game was already out of reach. In a string of four straight embarrassing losses, this was the toughest one to stomach.
As there has been with every loss this year, tons of questions have emerged from this one. C.J. Brown was benched after two drives in favor of Danny O'Brien, so who is the starting quarterback moving forward? Is it youth and inexperience that has made the defense so poor, or is it a problem with the scheme? Have they forgotten how to play special teams all together? Why oh why is D.J. Adams only getting one carry every four games?
But at this point, with the Terps having win four straight games to even entertain the notion of going to a bowl game, the most important question they face for the rest of the season is simple. What do they have to play for at this point?
Based on the way they have been playing, I don't think anyone out there has pegged the Terps to win their last four games. But that's still the goal, no matter what the record may be. I asked various Terps players what their goals were for the rest of the season, and even though it seems like a small possibility, all they are thinking about is winning four straight games.
"You don't want to finish that way," Joe Vellano said. "You look at the end of the year, if we win out four nobody is going to say, 'Oh you were 2-6.' They'll just say that we finished 6-6."
I asked a lot of players about the morale in the locker room after their fourth straight loss, and everyone insisted that the team was staying together despite the adversity. That's a very good thing. We might be unhappy with the product Randy Edsall has put on the field this year, but if he can continue to inspire and motivate his players, than he has done his job in some respect. Granted, these were public statements, and there have been reports of unrest, so we'll have to see going forward.
If the Terps lose to rival Virginia next weekend and officially fall out of bowl contention, it will be interesting to see if they stand together for the rest of the year. It seems the recipe for winning is not that difficult.
"Just gotta play to win. Everybody has to come to work every day, practice hard, study film, continue being a team and come out playing to win," Darin Drakeford said. " Can't lose another game, or the bowl hops are down the drain.
Easier said than done. Those keys to winning have been the same since the beginning of the year, but they have failed to get it done six out of the eight times they've played so far. This was supposed to be a great season for the Terps, one with ACC title aspirations. I don't think anyone, including the starting quarterback, could have seen this coming.
"Very disheartening," O'Brien said." We had very high expectations for this year, but obviously you can't get caught now looking back on what could have been because we still have four games left and a big one this week. Not reaching your goals when you feel like you should be is not good in anything in life. But we have to bounce back, we still have four games ahead of us and our backs are against the wall. Our goal is to get to a bowl game and we're not going to stop fighting."
At 2-6, the season has already been lost. Sure, they can get back to 6-6 with four straight wins, which would be commendable, but even that finish would be a disappointment following the expectations that were on this team heading into the year.
But if this team wants to stay together and play as one unit for the rest of the season, that hope is what is going to unite them. It's all they've got at this point.