MORGANTOWN, W. VA. — After a performance filled with penalties in a win over South Florida, Maryland coach Randy Edsall preached better discipline and decision making entering Saturday's game at West Virginia.
With the Terps facing a high-powered offense and a hostile environment at sold-out Milan Puskar Stadium, Edsall knew that self-inflicted mistakes had to be avoided if his team wanted a chance to win.
But after 10 penalties for 100 yards and six turnovers, the script was largely the same for the Terps in a 45-6 blowout loss to the Mountaineers.
"Thing that disappointed me more than anything today is we played undisciplined at times with some of the penalties," Edsall said. "That's the stuff we don't expect and we shouldn't have and what we have to be able to do is do a better job, all of us, in all three phases."
Through four games, Maryland is tied for the 13th-most penalized team in the nation and has been penalized the 13th-most yards. The Terps have been called for 33 penalties this season and it's cost them 316 yards.
In the Big Ten Conference — Maryland opens league play this week against Michigan — those marks are good for the third-most penalties and penalty yards.
When Edsall took over the Terps in 2011, he carried the reputation as a no-nonsense coach who expected the same from his players. And early on his tenure at Maryland, that held true.
When the Terps finished 2-10 in 2011, they were tied for 116th in penalties and 115th in penalty yards out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. A year later, they were tied for 119th in penalties and 118th in penalty yards out of 124 FBS teams. Those numbers jumped slightly to tied for 96th in penalties and 104th in penalty yards in 2013, but last year, there was a significant leap to tied for 53rd and 59th.
Maryland is on pace to commit 99 penalties for 948 yards this season.
"It comes from a lack of discipline, not playing smart, not understanding the situations and just not being focused," outside linebacker Jalen Brooks said. "And just doing dumb stuff."
"I would say just getting caught up in the moment," right guard Andrew Zeller said. "Overthinking things, possibly. We had penalties, turnovers. Those are things we can't have in order to be successful and we've got to fix those."
On West Virginia's opening drive Saturday, Maryland showcased some of the issues that have plagued the team this season. On a second-and-8 near midfield, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue lined up offside and gifted the Mountaineers five yards. Two plays later, West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard scrambled up the right sideline for eight yards and was well out of bounds when he got popped by safety A.J. Hendy for a personal foul.
And after the Mountaineers scored a touchdown to go up 7-0, the Terps were called for an illegal block on the ensuing kickoff which forced them to start their drive at their own 9-yard line.
"Sometimes I think guys want to try too hard and they get careless," Edsall said. "When you line up in the neutral zone, that's just not being aware. That's not being aware. When you come along the sidelines and you hit somebody, sometimes that's going to happen because you're going. But some of them aren't."
West Virginia was frequently penalized as well — the Mountaineers were called for 10 penalties for 124 yards — but the majority of those penalties (six) and yards (84) came in the second half when the game was already out of reach.
Half of Maryland's penalties were either personal fouls or pass interference calls. Edsall has repeated that if his players use proper technique and fundamentals, these sorts of calls and mistakes could be avoided. And once again, penalties and playing smart will be something Edsall will have to hammer home with his team as it prepares for Michigan.
"He made a big deal about correcting them last week against South Florida," running back Brandon Ross said. "That was even worse than we had penalties today. That's something we're going to have to make a big deal in practice."
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