Terps' goal line moves farther away

The television went on, and Mark Duffner started describing the video highlights from Maryland's latest disaster, a 38-0 loss at Georgia Tech.

Alistair Cooke as host of "Masterpiece Theater" it wasn't.


The Terps were sort of fun when they were losing 59-42 and 42-37, but that euphoria lasted only four games. The past two weeks they've been outscored by almost 17 touchdowns -- to be exact, 108-7.

Their record is 0-6.


Their ranking in total defense is 106 out of 106.

Their next winning season might be in 2006.

Duffner repeated at his weekly news conference yesterday that his rebuilding program will resemble a 1-mile run more than a 40-yard --. Right now, though, he's looking at a marathon -- one Maryland might never complete.

Oh, the Terps are young, so young that seven of their 11 defensive starters against Tech were first-year Division I players. But guess what? They're going to be young again next season, in a conference that keeps getting better and better.

Don't look now, but Duffner might require a second five-year contract to make Maryland a Top 25 team -- assuming, of course, that Boogie Weinglass doesn't name him to coach the Baltimore Bombers.

Great idea, Boogie.

Duffner can't win in Division I, so he must belong in the NFL.

Seriously, Maryland is in a deep, deep hole, even if Duffner is the real thing, and not some fraud from Division I-AA. At this point, who can tell? If the Terps lose their homecoming game to Duke on Saturday, they easily could finish 0-11.


Already, the questions beg asking: How scarred are the players? How long will they believe? Yes, the Terps' first five opponents are a combined 24-3. But as the losses mount, explanations cease to matter.

Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger points out that Mack Brown went 2-20 in his first two seasons at North Carolina, only to transform the Tar Heels into a national power. In theory, Duffner could follow the same timetable, but the landscape has changed, both in the ACC and NCAA.

The addition of Florida State is forcing the rest of the ACC to play catch-up, at a time when new NCAA scholarship limits -- 25 per year, 85 per team -- make such a task that much more difficult.

Maryland is at the bottom of the pile, with virtually no way to crawl out. Duffner was 3-8 last season. If he goes 2-9, 4-7 and 5-6 in his next three, Geiger said he probably would give him a new contract.

"One thing this university can't do after what it has been through the last 10 years is tear the plant out by the roots to see if it's OK," Geiger said, referring to the controversial departures of Lefty Driesell, Bob Wade and Joe Krivak.

"You stay with the program, and build it from the base, one high school class at a time. You don't lose your confidence. You don't lose your self-esteem. You don't go through cosmic kinds of questions."


Not when you're committed through 1996. Geiger pressured Krivak to resign so that he could hire his own man. Krivak had three years left on his contract. What's Geiger going to do, shift course again?

No, all he can do -- all Maryland can do -- is wait.

"We're kind of building a house right now," Duffner said. "We're in the early construction stages, and it doesn't look as good without the furniture. We've got to keep a vision of what the house will look like when the furniture is in place."

That is, if it ever gets delivered. Kyle Lingerfelt, the recruiting coordinator responsible for this year's freshman class, left for a scouting position with the Cleveland Browns, leaving the job to the unproven Jim Miceli.

Pick an area, any area -- the Terps are in trouble. How can the injury-depleted defense survive when the run-and-shoot offense can't dominate time of possession? How can the offense improve when it's practicing against a defense that threatens to rank as the worst in NCAA history?

Defense -- that supposedly was Duffner's forte. He spent five years as a defensive coordinator at Holy Cross, and Geiger said he devotes 80 percent of his time at Maryland to defensive play.


"This is ripping him up," Geiger said.

Of course, you wouldn't have known it yesterday, with Duffner maintaining his relentlessly upbeat demeanor, spouting all his usual cliches. Maybe he doesn't know what hit him. Maybe he's in denial. Maybe that's just the way he is.

"Let me tell you -- you're really down, you don't have much out there," Georgia Tech AD Homer Rice told Geiger Saturday. "But stay the course. You've got the guy."

Geiger took comfort in the words.

What else is there right now?