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Terps, Cavs looking for a lift

COLLEGE PARK - Here's the situation the Maryland football teams faces as it hits the halfway point of the 2013 regular season: The Terrapins (4-1, 0-1 ACC) are coming off a 63-0 embarrassment at the hands of then-No. 8 Florida State in Tallahassee, the worst lost ever suffered by an ACC team in a conference game. It also matched the worst loss ever by a nationally ranked team; the Terrapins were No. 25 before their disastrous trip to the so-called "Sunshine State."
It was the kind of loss that damages psyches as well as statistics. After getting run over the by the Seminoles, Maryland dropped from No. 3 nationally in scoring defense to 33rd; they dropped from No. 6 nationally in total defense to 22nd.
As if all that weren't bad enough, the Seminoles added injury to insult when defensive lineman Jacobbi McDaniel smashed into Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown and gave him a concussion. Brown was listed as "doubtful" in the injury report Maryland released after practice on Thursday.
The injured senior quarterback has had a hand in 13 of the 16 offensive touchdowns Maryland has scored this season. If he can't play, coach Randy Edsall will turn to backup Caleb Rowe.
Despite the multitude of issues Edsall must confront this week, he might actually better off than Virginia coach Mike London.
It's not absolutely certain that Maryland's performance last Saturday was any worse than Virginia's. The Cavaliers (2-3, 0-1) got outscored 24-3 over the final 16 minutes and dropped a 48-27 decision to Ball State. The Cavaliers committed four turnovers and were whistled for 13 penalties.
Even worse, all of this happened at home - inside a half-full Scott Stadium in Charlottesville. The loss dropped London's record as Virginia's coach to 18-24 and sent frustrated fans to the internet message boards, where many are calling for London's ouster. The outcry became so loud that Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage felt compelled to offer a public vote of confidence for the beleaguered coach.
"Uncertainty can be a distraction and erode confidence," Littlepage said on Sunday. "I don't want there to be uncertainty about our coach. Mike London is our head coach and he has my full support in our efforts to build this football program. This is sometimes a longer and more difficult process than we want and will have ups and downs. But I know Mike is the right guy."
To be fair, Virginia fields one of the nation's least-experienced teams, so some degree of inconsistency is to be expected. Against Ball State, the Cavaliers dressed just eight seniors and had 36 underclassmen listed on their two-deep roster.
Starting quarterback David Watford, a sophomore, is one of those who has endured his share of growing pains. Watford has proven to be a dangerous runner, but has yet to establish himself as a boa fide passing threat. He's thrown seven interceptions this season and only three touchdowns.
Running back Kevin Parks has been one of the constants. He's run for 398 yards - fourth most in the league - with a 4.5 yards-per-carry average and five touchdowns. He also ranks second on the team with 14 catches for another 132 yards.
"To me, he's a complete football player and one that plays hard all the time," Edsall said. "I have a lot of respect for him."
For all its troubles this season, Virginia's offense appeared to be making strides against Ball State, accumulating 27 points and 459 total yards.
But just when Virginia's offense hit its stride, the defense faltered. The Cavaliers had been hard to score on in wins over BYU (19-16), VMI (49-0) and a loss at Pittsburgh (14-3). But Ball State carved up that unit last week with 506 yards of total offense.
"We continue to work hard each day on the things that build consistency on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball," London told reporters after the game. "It's difficult to not be further along after five games, but I know our patience will pay off."
Like Virginia, Maryland took a huge step backward last week, with both the offense and the defense performing poorly. The defense simply had no answer for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 353 yards and five touchdowns.
The offense never got going, either, and everyone was thrown for a loss when Brown went down and out of the game in the second period. Rowe, who would replace Brown if the former can't play against Virginia, threw for 240 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his only other career start, at Boston College last year.
No matter who plays quarterback, Maryland needs to get playmaking receiver Stefon Diggs more involved. In the Terrapins' last two games, Diggs has made just four catches for 37 yards.

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