At Quince Orchard in Montgomery County, Alex Twine played on teams that rarely lost. At Maryland, the junior linebacker has played on teams that have won just six of 24 games.
The chip on the shoulders of players such as Twine is growing.
“It’s a chip that won’t go away until we get the respect we deserve,” Twine said during Monday’s Media Day in College Park. “We just feel that we’re a lot better than people are making us out to be.”
While Terps football coach Randy Edsall talked Monday about his team being good enough to win the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division and the ACC championship game in order to play in a Bowl Championship Series game, most websites and publications have the Terps picked between fourth and sixth in the seven-team division, though they have been picked to finish as high as third behind Clemson and Florida State.
“Our goal is to win the ACC championship in Charlotte, the game’s Dec. 7, that’s where we want to be,” Twine said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time to get there. We’re [picked] fifth, and that’s also motivation to us. When Coach speaks about [winning the division and the conference], he’s telling us how good we think we are. He’s saying it’s up to us.”
Twine said the turning point last season came when the Terps lost at home to North Carolina State on a last-second field-goal attempt by freshman kicker Brad Craddock that ricocheted off the crossbar. Instead of getting to 5-2 and one game away from being bowl-eligible, the Terps dropped to 4-3.
Having already lost starting quarterback C.J. Brown to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, Perry Hills went out that game with a similar torn ACL. Quarterbacks Caleb Rowe and Devin Burns followed. Maryland lost its last six games.
“After that, it kind of went downhill,” Twine said. “Everyone still believed, but it was like, that game Perry got hurt and the next game Caleb got hurt and it was demoralizing. We kept trying to pick each other up and then somebody else went down. We have everyone back. There’s no excuses. We’re as good as we play. There’s 100 guys in this room that have the capability of going 12-0 if we put our mind to it.”
Like his teammates, Twine can’t wait to get ready for the start of preseason practice Monday night.
“It’s been a long process. We’ve all been waiting for this day, we have a lot to prove,” he said. “We still don’t get the respect that we deserve. We went through a lot of injuries last year. I’m not making that excuse for anything, but we kind of felt we hit the injury bug last year and that kind of set us back a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, we fought every game.
“We’re just out to prove to this whole ACC conference that we can play with anybody. We’ve been counted out before the season began. It sucks that we’re at the bottom of our division and we’re not getting any respect but at the same time it’s like, ‘Why should we give you any respect? You haven’t done much.’ If we want respect, we just gotta go out and earn it."