WASHINGTON — When the Virginia Tech game had been won, Maryland football coach Randy Edsall bolted from the sideline and bounded across the field, his arms upraised, his fists pumping, an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
As the Terps prepared for Friday's Military Bowl game against Marshall in Annapolis, Edsall said he regards the 27-24, overtime win over the Hokies on Nov. 16 as a watershed moment not only of the season, but perhaps for his program.
If not for that victory, the Terps (7-5) may not have been where they were Monday — arriving at the swank, 583-room Mayflower hotel. The hotel, a frequent site of presidential inaugural events, is the team's headquarters for bowl-week activities such as dinners and a visit to the U.S. Capitol.
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"That's what a bowl is, it's a reward," Edsall said Monday. "It's a reward for what the kids accomplished during the regular season."
Maryland was not yet bowl-eligible and was staggering through a 1-4 stretch as it prepared to face Virginia Tech, which was in the thick of the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division race.
Maryland's upset win "turned the season around," sophomore running back Albert Reid said Monday.
Maryland had seven sacks in the game, which it won when quarterback C.J. Brown, who had battled injuries all season, scored on a 3-yard run in overtime.
"It was huge, " Brown said Monday, smiling at the memory as he stood in the Mayflower lobby with its high ceilings and glass chandeliers. "At that point in the season, we could go either way. We could have a winning season or we could turn and go in the other direction."
The victory seemed to quiet some — but certainly not all — of the criticism Edsall has received since arriving at Maryland in 2011 and going 2-10 and 4-8 in his first two seasons.
On Monday, athletic director Kevin Anderson included a message about Edsall as he welcomed the team to bowl-week activities.
Anderson strongly denied a report on TerrapinSportsReport.com that Maryland was prepared to buy out the remaining three years of Edsall's contract if the Terps lose to Marshall (9-4).
Speaking in a hotel ballroom, Anderson introduced Edsall as "our football coach, my football coach Randy Edsall."
"He's my guy," Anderson told the team. "Whatever those blogs have just been posted are not true."
It wasn't only the Virginia Tech victory that altered the season's storyline — it was a players meeting that came immediately before it, players said.
The previous week, Maryland had seemed flat in a 20-3 home loss to Syracuse. It was a game in which Maryland had four turnovers and zero sacks. It ended in a near-empty Byrd Stadium, with the loudest remaining fans huddled in the Syracuse section and chanting, "Let's go, Orange!"
After that defeat, the Terps took ownership of the team in a way they hadn't previously, Edsall said.
The coach said Reid, junior nose tackle Keith Bowers and other players "stood up and spoke out and didn't sit back. And that was something that I was waiting to have happen, because that's when you become good, when those guys go and take the bull by the horns and now they're starting to hold each other accountable.
"After that, there was a difference in how we handled ourselves and what we believed in," Edsall said.
The Terps began the season 4-0. But the team seemed unsettled by subsequent losses and injuries. The team lost both of its starting cornerbacks and its top two receivers during the year.
After the Syracuse game, Reid said, "We had a team meeting where Coach Edsall actuallly left. It was [about] bringing the team back together. We weren't the same team as we were when we started out the season."
Reid is part of the 10-member leadership council that acts as a liaison between the Terps' players and coaches. He said the message that week was that the season — and all of the work that had accompanied it — was hanging in the balance.
"Somebody needed to step up, and I said 'Hey, why not me?' Reid said. "A lot of people did start stepping up. It wasn't just me and Keith Bowers."
Entering the Virginia Tech game, Edsall had one ACC road victory in his Maryland tenure and one win after Oct. 13. Maryland had lost five straight to Virginia Tech and hadn't won in Blacksburg since 1949.
But Edsall said he never felt Maryland's athletic administrators lost faith in him.
"I knew that what we were doing was right, and it was just a matter of us getting a win for them to really understand," the coach said. "And I think that happened at Virginia Tech."
Notes: Edsall said top receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are both on schedule in their recoveries from lower-leg fractures suffered against Wake Forest on Oct. 19. Diggs was on crutches Monday but Long was not.