Don Markus reports on the Terps' football season-opening upset against No. 23 Texas, 51-41. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
They filled a far corner of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday — around 2,000 strong. If their team's 51-41 upset of No. 23 Texas was the perfect start to the 2017 season, the presence of Maryland fans on the road might have been the start of a trend.
While the red-shirted Terps fans still have a long way to go in numbers to approach the traveling road shows of their Big Ten brethren, from such places as Penn State, Michigan, Ohio and Nebraska, it was one of the biggest gatherings away from College Park in recent memory.
Second-year coach DJ Durkin certainly took notice.
"Wasn't it great?" Durkin said after the game. "That was awesome. Someone sent me a pic last night of a restaurant or bar or something downtown, and it was all Maryland. It was great to see them up in the stands. I don't know what the number was, but we took all the tickets they would give us. Our fans did a tremendous job. That was big. Our players noticed that. It was a big."
Part of the attraction was certainly the destination, as well as the fact that it came in the middle of the last holiday weekend of the summer. But as Maryland fans packed a tailgate party across the street from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library a couple of hours before kickoff, the vibe was noticeably different on the road than it had been in the past.
"We haven't played Texas in 40 years or whatever. I think it's a good kickoff to the season," said Ed Woods, a 1993 Maryland graduate and longtime season-ticket holder who lives in Brookville. "Fans are excited about Maryland football."
Said Steve Whitman, a 2005 graduate who lives in Baltimore, "You don't get this kind of turnout in Ann Arbor or Madison[, Wisc.] or any of the other places we play. I went to Cal-Berkeley a few years ago. It was fun, but it wasn't like this."
Whitman made the trip to Texas with his wife, Nicole Whitman, who earned her MBA at Maryland in 2013, as well as two friends, Michael and Denise Hoffman. Steve Whitman and Michael Hoffman have been season-ticket holders since they graduated with Denise Hoffman in 2005.
"Some of our group dropped out and we're waiting for them to catch the excitement," Michael Hoffman said. "With the new facility, and with recruiting picking up, it's definitely exciting to see them win some games now."
Asked what his expectations were for the season, Woods pointed to the schedule.
"You can see that we have the second-hardest schedule in the country. I don't think that bears well for anybody, whether you're Alabama or Maryland," Woods said. "To me, I still think we're on the way up."