Eight months ago, Maryland nose-dived into the offseason by losing a 27-point, third-quarter lead at North Carolina State. The Wolfpack celebrated the biggest comeback win in their history by dancing and leaping on their sideline as the dazed Terps slowly left the field.
As Maryland prepares to open a new season Saturday, the Terps don't talk much about the collapse that extended their season-ending losing streak to eight games. "I haven't mentioned really anything about last year," coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday.
There is a sense from Edsall, entering his second Maryland season, that the losing streak is a relic — an artifact from a 2-10 season. The coach doesn't want his team to be distracted by the streak or to allow its self-image to be tainted by it.
Maryland is a young team trying to form a new identity. The Terps list 14 true freshmen on the two-deep depth chart.
At the same time, the streak can serve a purpose. It has fostered a sense among the older players that they are underdogs with something to prove.
It even affected how they trained in the offseason. The N.C. State game — in which Maryland led 41-14 before losing 56-41 — was the most trying loss of the season. But it wasn't the only 2011 contest in which a lead slipped away. The Terps lost two out of three Atlantic Coast Conference games in which they led after the third quarter.
"Our big focus this offseason was finishing," said right tackle Justin Gilbert, a fifth-year senior. "We would put some of our hardest drills last."
Gilbert worked out over the summer with Drew Wilson, the strength coach. Often, the player said, "Your body is telling you that you don't want to do this anymore."
But he would push on. "[Offensive line] coach [Tom] Brattan says the pain of sacrifice is always less than the pain of regret. You never want to regret anything," Gilbert said.
This year's opener is reminiscent of the first game of 2010. The Terrapins, who had lost their last seven games of 2009, were weary of hearing about the streak. They beat Navy, 17-14, and went on to a 9-4 season.
"Rightfully so, there's a lot of people who doubt what we can do," Edsall said. "Whenever you have that, it always instills a little more in you. And you do have that little chip on your shoulder. We have a chance now to show who we are, and what we're all about and take it from there."
Losing to the Wolfpack in Raleigh, N.C., caused a special brand of suffering for fifth-year linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield. He is from Raleigh, was recruited by N.C. State, and had to hear about the game from friends in the offseason.
"Probably one of the worst feelings I've ever had as an athlete," said Hartsfield, who had 18 tackles in the game. "I had to deal with it a lot. It's just another thing to motivate you to have a great 2012 season."
Notes: Edsall on Tuesday clarified the status of kicker Nick Ferrara, who was omitted from the latest depth chart. Freshman Brad Craddock was awarded the kicking job. Edsall said Ferrara, who had hip surgery during the offseason, is experiencing soreness and is day-to-day. Ferrara had been kicking during the preseason, but Edsall said the senior "had some issues" and has been limited by the training staff. … Edsall confirmed that linebacker Kenny Tate, safety Matt Robinson (Atholton), defensive lineman Isaiah Ross and defensive back A.J. Hendy are all out for the William & Mary game, and defensive lineman Keith Bowers is likely to be listed as doubtful. … Maryland awarded scholarships to six walk-on players. They are defensive back Clarence Claiborne, linebacker Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil (Towson), fullback Jeff Hernandez, running back Kwabena Ofori, starting long snapper Greg Parcher (Archbishop Spalding) and defensive lineman Alex Walker. Claiborne and Hernandez appear on the two-deep depth chart as backups.