COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Typically I like to start these pieces with some positive remarks to maintain balance, but it's very hard to find nice things to say about the Maryland football team right now. That's the reality after the Terps' 38-7 shellacking at the hands of the Temple Owls, a team they should beat.
The offense was stagnant at best and destructive at worst. The defense played very soft and failed to stop Temple at the point of attack, even though Coach Randy Edsall assured media members that he had driven that message home in practice all week. There wasn't a single standout player, save for backup quarterback C.J. Brown, who went 4-4 on his garbage-time touchdown drive. He also rushed for 29 yards, and oh yeah, that led the team for the day.
As soon as they came out of the tunnel and started playing, it was easy to see that the Terps didn't have the energy or the fight that we had seen against Miami or in the second half against West Virginia. About five minutes into the game, Maryland had run six plays for a combined six yards and already trailed 14-0. Somehow, it went even more downhill from there.
No question, the players got outplayed. But from here, it seems a lot of the blame has to rest with the coaches. Not only did they not put together a good game plan against Temple, but they failed to get the players ready to play. That should not be their job exclusively, because the players themselves have to take responsibility and get excited for every game. But if they aren't, it's on the coaches to rile them up.
I was wondering how Edsall would address this lack of passion after the game, and he made a comment that made my ears stand up.
"I saw a little bit of lack of focus on Tuesday and addressed it," he said. "I thought a couple of guys needed to be addressed. I thought we were better on Wednesday. But on Thursday I saw that same thing. We need to be a team that doesn't want the slaps on the back. I think some of our guys felt that even though we were 1-1, we thought we were better than we were."
Teams can suffer from a lack of focus in practice from time to time, but Edsall is the last coach I would expect to have those kinds of problems. His hallmarks are his attention to detail and his ability to make his team feel the same. The sentiments about practice were echoed by defensive tackle Joe Vellano.
"We just need to come out and take practice more seriously," Vellano said. "Come out and take it just as if it were a game; that's what we need to do. We need to step up in every direction."
I spoke to a few players, and none of them seemed surprised that Edsall had made those comments. That is, except quarterback Danny O'Brien, who thought that the team, particularly the offense, had done enough to be successful against Temple.
I feel like as an offense, again being the only side that I'm really with all week, I think we put in a lot of work," O'Brien said. "We didn't take the West Virginia game too lightly. We took it pretty heavily, so we were working pretty hard as an offense. Staying late, watching tape working hard. Again, it just comes down to executing on Saturdays."
If preparation really is an issue -- and Edsall wouldn't bring it up if it wasn't -- this is not something I expect to be a problem for very long. Linebacker Kenny Tate compared his feelings after the game to how he felt following a 31-0 loss to Virginia his freshman year. He said he didn't want to ever have that feeling again, and he looked pretty intent on making that a reality.
Between Edsall and the captains, I am confident that the Terps can do what it takes to fix any issues of focus or preparation before the next game against Towson. They'll win that game regardless. But once the ACC season rolls around, it's up to the coaches to make sure the team is prepared.