COLLEGE PARK — Maryland coach Randy Edsall turned back to the Terps' sideline and tossed his headset about 20 feet into the air before walking toward midfield at Michigan Stadium with both arms raised triumphantly.
This was more than just a win. This was the culmination of perhaps the most important week of Edsall's four-year tenure at Maryland, one that could help the program produce more wins like Saturday's 23-16 victory over the Wolverines at the storied "Big House."
The Terps program that was just 2-10 during Edsall's first season as coach in 2011 has progressed to the point that Maryland is 7-4, including 4-3 in the Big Ten heading into the final regular-season game of its first year as a member of the conference.
The win at Michigan is the Terps' latest signature victory after beating Penn State on the road and perennial Big Ten power Iowa in College Park, and it puts Maryland in realistic contention for a respected bowl game such as the Outback Bowl or the TaxSlayer Bowl, formerly the Gator Bowl.
The victory also came just a day after the Terps announced their plans for a $155 million expansion and renovation of Cole Field House that will provide an NFL-caliber indoor practice field and training facility for Maryland's football team, a project that will aid in the development of future Terps players as well as in the pursuit of recruiting targets.
"Randy Edsall and our football program have done a tremendous job with some signature wins against traditional college football powers," Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said. "We have had an electric atmosphere with a pair of sellouts at home.
"The recent unveiling of the new Cole Field House has not only invigorated our football program and athletics department but the entire campus community. It's an extremely exciting time to be a part of the University of Maryland, and you can feel the energy on campus."
During Edsall's introductory news conference in 2011, Anderson touted his newly appointed coach as a man he believed could take the Terps' football program to "another level."
This past week was another step toward getting to that level.
"In terms of the facility, it helps tremendously in recruiting, coupled with winning on the field," Edsall said. "When you win on the field and then the university steps up to make the commitment to the program, to the student-athletes, to all the students here at Maryland, it makes a huge difference."
While construction of the new football facility will not be completed until 2017, Maryland released renderings last week of what the new complex will look like and will be able to show those drawings to recruits.
Edsall will have an office overlooking the Terps' indoor practice field. There also will be cutting-edge training and strength training facilities, meeting rooms and offices to go along with two outdoor practice fields, a spacious, ultra-modern locker room and other amenities.
Pending full Board of Regents approval in December, Maryland plans to begin design in May and construction next December.
"All of the kids saw that," Edsall said. "They're going to see it when they come on campus. They're going to see the shovel in the ground. They're going to see dirt being moved and all those things, so it's a big bonus for us. … And when the announcement came and then going out and beating Michigan, I think it also shows that they're making a wise investment."
Projected to finish fifth out of seven teams in the Big Ten's East Division in a preseason media poll, the Terps have already secured a third-place finish in their division and could finish tied for fourth in the entire Big Ten if Minnesota (8-3, 5-2) and Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) lose Saturday.
Maryland's only losses have come to No. 7 Ohio State, No. 10 Michigan State, No. 14 Wisconsin and a West Virginia team that was ranked No. 20 nationally earlier this month.
"I don't even know if you can [quantify] it. I think it's been that positive for Maryland," said former Vanderbilt, Louisiana State and Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo, a current Big Ten Network analyst. "Did I expect seven, eight wins? I don't know. I don't know that I sat down, looked at the schedule and counted. … But I think it gives them great momentum if they win eight games or if they stay at seven.
"It doesn't matter whether Penn State's not at its best or Michigan's not at its best. They went into both of those campuses and won games, and it's very, very impressive."
Maryland remains in the process of finding and developing an upper-echelon starter at quarterback and needs to upgrade an offensive line that has been overwhelmed against teams such as Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Still, the past week has been "big for many reasons," former Terps quarterback Scott McBrien said.
"We can compete in this conference," Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown said. "Adding new facilities and upgrading things will only make us bigger, better and stronger."
NOTE: Maryland junior kicker Brad Craddock has been named a finalist for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award, presented annually to the top kicker in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Australia native has converted all 17 of his field-goal attempts and is the only kicker in the FBS yet to miss a field goal. Craddock is Maryland's first-ever finalist for the Lou Groza Award. The other two finalists are Florida State's Roberto Aguayo, who won the award last year, and West Virginia's Josh Lambert.