By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
7:50 PM EDT, October 28, 2011
COLLEGE PARK —
Its opponents' win-loss records suggest that this difficult season could get more manageable for a Maryland football team that hasn't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since Labor Day and is coming off a 25-point loss.
After playing a schedule ranked by the NCAA as the nation's third toughest, the Terps see the caliber of opposition sharply drop. Beginning with 1-6 Boston College on Saturday at Byrd Stadium, Maryland's final five opponents have a combined record of 18-17. The record is worse — 13-17 — if games versus Football Championship Subdivision schools are omitted.
Those are just numbers. The reality is that this is the point in the season when things can get particularly hard. The Terps (2-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are weighed down by injuries and trying to ward off the disappointment of losing five of their past six games and seeing their goal of an ACC division title all but disappear.
"We're still bowl-eligible," said Danny O'Brien, who is vying with C.J. Brown to start at quarterback against the Eagles. "We're not going to pack it in. The coaches haven't packed it in."
The recent run of losses will provide a test of Maryland's resolve.
It's a period that might have been symbolized by the sight of left guard Andrew Gonnella stretched out near midfield at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium with agony on his face after dislocating his knee Oct. 8, ending his season. Gonnella, who couldn't travel with the team on its last road trip, is a popular team captain.
Injuries have hit the defense even harder, with seven potential starters — including senior linebacker Kenny Tate, also a captain — having missed games. Only six of the defense's 11 starters on the preseason depth chart remained in their former positions when the two-deep roster was released this week.
The question now: How do the Terps respond?
In his first season as Maryland's coach, Randy Edsall has promised his team will play with maximum effort.
After last month's 37-31 loss to West Virginia, Edsall passionately defended the team, which had scored 21 unanswered points in a comeback attempt.
"I'm going to tell you this," the coach said. "In a Randy Edsall football-coached team, there ain't never going to be any quit. And if there's somebody that's going to quit, they ain't going to be on this team."
Maryland is four wins short of the six needed to become bowl-eligible. The Terps have five games remaining, including two at home and one against Notre Dame on Nov. 12 in nearby Landover.
"I don't sense any guys who are down," Edsall said. "We are just trying to get better. When adversity strikes, there are only two things you can do. You can sulk about it, or you can go out and work hard to improve."
Many Maryland players remember the 2-10 season of 2009. That season provided a primer in the importance of staying positive.
"We're kind of teetering right now," said senior safety Austin Walker, the son of broadcaster and former Washington Redskin Rick "Doc" Walker. "I guess you can't say it hasn't been a little of a roller-coaster ride. But you learn things from the experience you have. It helps you grow."
Boston College has lost three in a row. The Eagles lost all-time leading rusher Montel Harris for the season to a knee injury. They haven't scored more than 19 points in a conference game this season.
"Everybody understands the truth — what the positives are, what the problems are and how we need to correct it," Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said. "We can see the positives. We've got to put it into perspective, though — those positives haven't translated into wins. How are we going to build on it? I think we're on the right track with that."
For the second time in three weeks, it's uncertain who will start for the Terps at quarterback.
O'Brien has started five games; Brown has started the past two.
"We could play one guy the whole game or … we could play two," Edsall said. "We've got a lot of variables going in, but the competition has been very good and very healthy."
Boston College (1-6, 0-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) @ Maryland (2-5, 1-3 ACC)
Time: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Site: Byrd Stadium
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
Series: Boston College leads 5-3.
Last meeting: Maryland beat Boston College, 24-21, on Oct. 23, 2010.
Maryland offense vs. Boston College defense: Maryland said it was giving both quarterbacks — Danny O'Brien and C.J. Brown — work with the first unit in practice and that both could play. Coach Randy Edsall said he won't name the starter until game time. The Eagles are led by junior LB Luke Kuechly, who recorded the most tackles in the nation as a sophomore. "He is all over the field. He is very active," Edsall said. Maryland WR Kevin Dorsey is out again, and receiver-returner Tony Logan is questionable with undisclosed injuries.
Maryland defense vs. Boston College offense: Sophomore QB Chase Rettig has started all seven games and ranks ninth in the ACC in passing (194.6 yards per game). Boston College lost leading RB Montel Harris for the season. Andre Williams averages 55.5 rushing yards. Maryland ranks last in the ACC in scoring defense and total defense (nonconference games included).
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