Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Mixed emotions in College Park

COLLEGE PARK - There were thousands of empty seats at Byrd Stadium. No signs of nostalgia, no hard feelings.
The long goodbye is here for Maryland. For the next five months, through the end of the ACC tournament, there'll be two seasons worth of endings before the Terrapins debut in the Big 10 next September.
Saturday's goodbye was curiously lacking in emotion. Maryland's football team has long been a secondary, perhaps even a tertiary story in this state. Basketball has long been the sport fans care about.
But, before we get to Mark Turgeon and his rising Terps, the focus is on Randy Edsall and his guys.
Maryland escaped with a 27-26 win over Virginia. The Cavaliers are what passes for the closest football rival the Terrapins have, and the teams, who have played every year since 1957, won't meet again - at least not for the foreseeable future.
"We know that's the biggest rivalry we have in football," Edsall said. "I think it's something special."
The announced attendance was 41,077, leaving the stadium nearly a quarter unfilled. After an impressive 4-0 start, the Terps hoped the stands would be packed. But after one week in the national rankings, Maryland suffered its worst loss in years a week ago, 63-0 at Florida State.
After a 42-yard field goal attempt by Virginia's Alec Vozenilek went awry with 10 seconds left, the Terps are 5-1 with a trip to Wake Forest next week.
"That will make you feel a few years older," Edsall said of the narrow win.
Vozenilek is the Cavaliers' punter, and was subbing for their injured kicker.
"Any win's a good win, and we're going to enjoy it, most especially against them because what this rivalry means and what it's all about," Edsall said.
Backup quarterback Caleb Rowe, who threw for 332 yards and the winning pass to Dave Stinebaugh, said the players didn't care about the rivalry Edsall talked about.
"Every game's important to us. We don't put more emphasis on a game because you want to play to your potential," Rowe said.
Next year's schedule looks like a lot of fun: Big Ten home games against Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State and a non-conference game with West Virginia. The Terps go on the road to Indiana, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan.
Can anyone argue that it's more fun playing at Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State? Other than this game and homecoming in two weeks against powerful Clemson, Maryland's home schedule lacks punch.
Some have argued that the Atlantic Coast Conference has penalized Maryland by giving it an unfair conference basketball schedule. The Terps play at Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State without getting a home game in return.
The move to the Big 10 is a necessary one for Maryland. They face enormous competition for the sports dollar in the Baltimore-Washington area.
The Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins draw some 150,000 fans in stadiums less than 35 miles apart on some Sundays. The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals combined to draw more than 5 million fans, and lots of potential Maryland fans spend their money at Washington Wizards and Capitals games instead of at College Park.
Annual games with Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State should bring fans to Byrd Stadium, and when you talk basketball, Indiana-Maryland could develop into quite a rivalry, too.
Stinebaugh is a senior. He won't see any of that.
"It's nice to go out with a win for maybe the last time we ever play them," Stinebaugh said. "The main picture is we just want to win No. 5, and that's what we were able to do."
It's likely that initially Maryland could flounder in a Big 10. That's a million miles away for Edsall, whose team is nearing bowl eligibility. After a rocky first two years at College Park, the coach is finding his comfort zone.
"It's exciting because we won. That's the biggest thing," Edsall said.