WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. ——The more losses pile up for this year's Maryland football team, the closer the Terps get to reliving their not-so-distant past. It was only two years ago that Maryland finished 2-10 and rumors swirled around then-longtime coach Ralph Friedgen about his future.
Friedgen survived, largely because the school didn't have the money to pay off the final two years of his $2 million annual contract, then finished 9-4 and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year before getting fired by first-year athletic director Kevin Anderson.
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BB&T Field, Wake Forest University, 499 Deacon Blvd, Winston-Salem, NC 27105-4216, USA
"It's definitely tough, but right now we're playing for pride," redshirt sophomore quarterback C.J. Brown said earlier this week. "We don't want to go back to that 2-10 season. The guys who've been here have been through that, the offseason when we had the two wins and the scrutiny of that. We're playing for pride, we're playing for ourselves and we're playing to get better."
Said senior cornerback Trenton Hughes: "I want to be 4-8 now, I just don't want to be 2-10, since I've been there before."
More will be at stake for Wake Forest (5-5, 4-3 in the ACC) than for Maryland (2-8, 1-5) Saturday at BB&T Field. A victory would make the Demon Deacons, whose 31-28 loss at Clemson last week was their third straight, bowl-eligible. A victory for the Terps would stop what has become a six-game losing streak, but it would likely not appease a frustrated fan base and its collective disappointment in and growing disdain for first-year coach Randy Edsall.
"We definitely want to win, but they're definitely going to be fired up and we have to match their intensity," said Brown, who will start again at quarterback after redshirt sophomore Danny O'Brien broke a bone in his left arm in last Saturday's 45-21 loss to Notre Dame at FedEx Field in Landover.
Though the vitriol that has been directed at Edsall since the Terps won their last game — it came Oct. 1 against Towson — is more intense and personal than it was two years ago for Friedgen, there is no chance he will be fired with five years left on his contract.
Edsall seems oblivious to the criticism and resolute in getting the Terps back to where they were under Friedgen, when the team went to seven bowl games in 10 years.
Asked about playing the role of spoilers this weekend, and possibly next weekend in the season finale at North Carolina State, Edsall said: "There are all types of things that we use as motivation. One of them is our ability to be a spoiler. As a coach each week I am looking at different things I can use to motivate the guys. The bottom line is we still have to go out and play the game and execute."
Maryland's lack of execution — punctuated by missed tackles by the defense and special teams, to dropped passes in crucial situations by receivers — has been compounded by injuries. While the defense has been depleted by the loss of eight starters to injuries, the offense has been without the services of both starting quarterbacks. Brown, who suffered a concussion earlier in the season, is the only scholarship quarterback left on the roster.
Brown will likely be backed up by receiver Tony Logan, who played quarterback in high school, or walk-on Troy Jones (St. Paul's), who runs the scout-team offense at practice. Edsall seems unfazed by the injuries.
"It is life as normal for things to happen unexpectedly as a coach," said Edsall, whose team will travel with only 60 players, including walk-ons, 12 below the ACC limit for road games. "Some years don't go the way you would like to. Some years with injuries you are luckier than others. With injuries, it is pretty much luck. Other situations come up that you didn't anticipate, but you have to deal with it and move on. I know it is cliché, but I worry about the things that I can control. I try to anticipate things that I may see, but sometimes things come up that you didn't anticipate."
Mostly, the Terps didn't anticipate being in this position in Edsall's first season. The Terps have lost four straight ACC games by at least 10 points each, something that has happened only twice in school history.
Junior defensive tackle Joe Vellano, one of a handful of Terps to have played consistently well this season, said Maryland needs to put the negative aside when it takes the field Saturday.
"Just kind of trying to only focus what you can focus on," he said. "Really look at what is in your control; it is what it is. The last couple of games no one wants to lose like that, but just go out and play as hard as you can. There's no reason not to."