COLLEGE PARK — One more win would make Maryland bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010, but it would also accomplish a whole lot more.
One more win and the team can breathe a collective sigh of relief because it knows it won't be succumbing to the sort of lengthy, soul-sapping, season-ending losing streak that has marred the last two years.
Qualifying for a postseason game would provide a salve for a Maryland team (5-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) that believes it has suffered more than its share of losses and injuries in the past few years.
"You just want to put another one in the bank as Coach [Randy Edsall] says [and] be able to look back at the end of the season and say, 'Hey, we accomplished this,' " quarterback C.J. Brown said.
He has missed two of the past three games with injuries, but says he will be ready to start Saturday against Syracuse at Byrd Stadium in the season's next-to-last home game.
"Getting another one, making it six, and becoming bowl-eligible will definitely lift that weight off the shoulders a little bit," Brown said.
Maryland's last bowl game was a 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the 2010 Military Bowl — the final game for former coach Ralph Friedgen, who was dismissed and replaced by Edsall. Since nearly two-thirds of Maryland's roster is comprised of underclassmen, most Terps have never played in a bowl game.
Maryland's goals are posted in and around an illustration of a black and red pyramid that players see as they walk between the locker room and meeting rooms. Among the goals in block letters at the top are "ACC Champion," "Graduate" and "Bowl Game."
"I told our kids they know what they want to accomplish," Edsall said Tuesday. "I told them, we're a 5-3 football team. Where we want to go is up to them."
In the previous two years, Maryland's seasons haven't just ended — they've crash-landed.
The Terps ended 2011 on an eight-game losing streak. They lost their last six games a year ago and are on a two-game slide heading into Saturday's contest against the Orange (4-4, 2-2 ACC).
Since 2011, the Terps are 0-15 in games after Oct. 13.
Injuries have been a chief culprit — and they have continued. Top receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long suffered season-ending lower leg fractures against Wake Forest on Oct. 19. Brown (upper body), running back Brandon Ross (shoulder) and tight end Dave Stinebaugh (knee) also suffered injuries in that game that kept them out the next week against Clemson. Their statuses will be updated in Thursday's injury report. This week's depth chart lists Brown, Ross and Stinebaugh as starters.
Nigel King is the sole remaining starting wide receiver from the beginning of the season. Former backup Levern Jacobs has touchdown receptions in each of the last two games.
"At the end of the day, [the Terps] are still averaging 430 yards per game," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. "Their back up wide receivers have come in and done some nice things."
Edsall and his wife, Eileen, both attended Syracuse. She starred in volleyball and basketball and he was a backup quarterback and, later, a coaching assistant. "I love the place," Edsall said. "I have very fond memories. I spent 15 years of my life playing and then coaching. I met my wife there, and she got the better end of that deal."
Maryland knows that the Syracuse game, because it is at home against a team with a middling record, presents a prime opportunity for its critical sixth win. A win would guarantee a .500 record.
The Orange — in its first ACC season — rank 11th in the ACC in total yards (385.9 per game) and 12th in passing offense (188.1 yards per game). Orange quarterbacks have been intercepted 14 times, tops in the conference.
But Syracuse's defense has two shutouts, including last week's 13-0 win over Wake Forest.
"It is a big game," Brown said. "It means a lot to us. Each one does. But, yeah, it has a little more riding on it. "
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