There are all sorts of reasons to tread cautiously before reading too much into Maryland's resounding 37-0 victory over West Virginia on Saturday afternoon at M&T; Bank Stadium, but that doesn't mean that Terrapin fans shouldn't savor the moment and the team's 4-0 start.
Everyone knows that the Mountaineers were hammered by the NFL draft, losing quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey from a team that wasn't exactly dominant in its first season in the Big 12. And it's fair to point out that the Terrapins were expected to beat each of their first four opponents and the lopsided score on Saturday was inflated by a West Virginia turnover-fest.
That's all true, but Saturday's game in front of 55,677 in Baltimore was a major step in the right direction for Randy Edsall and his third-year program, which is trying to climb over a mountain of public skepticism after two disappointing seasons.
The Terps are trying to rejuvenate their fan following and improve their national recruiting stature as they prepare to join the Big Ten. Putting on an exciting show in a metropolitan NFL stadium certainly isn't going to hurt on either of those fronts, and it also serves notice that Maryland is not to be taken lightly when the Terrapins visit No. 8 Florida State in two weeks.
"I don't think the day could have gone any better," Edsall said. "We couldn't have scripted it any better in terms of what happened here today. And all we're trying to do is grow our brand, trying to get more people behind us and be a part of what we're doing. I think there's room for us, with the Orioles and the Ravens, and we're just going to try to do the things we can to attract more people – prospective student-athletes who come to our campus from this area – and attract more fans who want to be part of what we're doing.
"I just thought it was a great experience, and we all won today. The state of Maryland won. The city of Baltimore won. We alll won today, and that's really what it's all about."
Who knows how how far the Terps can go this year, but they've already equaled their win total from last year and – barring another rash of devastating injuries – appear likely to make their first bowl appearance since the 2010 season.
If this was a do-or-die year for Edsall no one had come out and said so, but this certainly was the point in his tenure when the program had to pivot. He couldn't be blamed for the freak string of injuries that forced him to use linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback for the last four games of the 2012 season, but he definitely needed the program to start heading north to take full advantage of the recruiting bump that figures to come with the move to the Big Ten.
The only thing that put a damper on Saturday's victory was the heavy rain that began falling in the second quarter and combined with the one-sided score to send a big percentage of the crowd home by the fourth quarter.
Still, Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson was very pleased with the fan support and said that he is looking forward to more opportunities for the program to connect with Baltimore.
"I'm really proud of what Randy, and the coaching staff, and the student athletes have done," he said. "It's very important for us to play in Baltimore and look to the future. In 2015, we'll play Penn State here. It was made very clear to me when I first came here, particularly by the football guys from Maryland, that playing in Baltimore was very important way back when, when we were good. I just want to continue that tradition."
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" on Friday mornings at 9on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.