By Benjamin Standig
With the current losing streak up to five games and hopes of a bowl game now vanquished, the end of days vibe continues to hover over the Maryland football program. At least that is how it appears on the outside. As angst rises within the vocal fan base, the man running the programs continues to project calm.
Randy Edsall's Tuesday press conference touched on the gaffes in last week's loss to Virginia and the challenges presented by the Saturday's opponent Notre Dame - most notably its passing game led by quarterback Tom Rees and star receiver Michael Floyd. However, with three games remaining in a season set to be a loser based on record, big picture talk was prevalent.
The Terps (2-7, 1-5 ACC) look to emerge from a gloomy skid in the nationally televised game against the Fighting Irish (6-3) at Fed Ex Field. Perhaps a win over a grand opponent salvages the season. It could not hurt and would at least provide the faithful a reason to believe, something the new coach often struggles to provide.
Though lacking in details, Edsall viewpoint was once again a process-driven one.
"From the outside that's all they look at, they look at how many you win and how many you lose. That's the business that we're in and I understand that," Edsall said. "It's a total program that we're installing that just has to be developed. We're winning in a lot of areas; we're just not winning on the field right now. That will happen. I'm confident of that."
Steering his say into a national view, Edsall continued.
"I want to say this the right way, in college football today - and you take a look at a lot of things that are going on - I think it's very important to make sure you develop the total program and all of that in place. Do it that way as opposed to maybe having some things that you see in college football today happening."
Last week's 31-13 home loss against Virginia officially ended any hopes of an eighth bowl game in 11 seasons. The result also provided a reason for optimism and Edsall can thank his coaching counterpart for that.
The Cavaliers struggled last season under then first-year coach Mike London, losing seven of eight ACC games and finishing 4-8 overall, sending some of the Charlottesville denizens into panic mode. That was then. In year two of the London era, Virginia stands 6-3 with wins in four of its last five games, making the program bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
Progression can come rapidly even if to the masses it takes time getting there.
"What you don't see and what the fans don't see.they only see what happens on Saturday and that's what they are going to judge us on. Completely understandable, but it's more than just that," Edsall said. That's a big part of it, but there is a lot of progress being made and I think when you talk to the young men they would tell you that."
Which brings us to tangible information: where has the program improved?
Edsall could cite the Terps generating the second fewest penalties in the ACC as a sign of enhanced on-field discipline or boast about the careful and opportunistic nature of ranking second in turnover margin. Those statistical standouts have clearly not led to victories, but tend to be hallmarks of winning seasons.
In the name of advancement, starting linebacker Darin Drakeford noted the growing connection in the locker room during these trying times.
"I think two things happen when you lose a lot of games; the team falls apart or the team comes closer together and that's what our team has done," Drakeford said. "We became one team with one goal. You see that bond of more than just teammates, becoming more of a brotherhood and building a family."
So when asked directly what concrete signs of progress he could report on, what did Edsall say?
"That's something that stays here within our family."
Edsall's implementation of his program at Connecticut is proof he has the coaching goods, but that type of closed off response feeds into the sulky tone some Maryland fans are registering. Even for the true die-hards, wrapping ones arms around the team becomes hard when witnessing suspect football is the only current data available.
Then again, staying mum about football is different from staying silent about unspeakable acts. Nobody should lose perspective after this week.
Notes.The ongoing quarterback competition remains as Danny O'Brien and C.J. Brown remain listed as co-starters on the Terps depth chart. O'Brien, who said the two sophomores are switching working with the first team every two snaps, started and played the bulk of last week's 31-13 loss to Virginia. Brown saw limited action, but his scoring pass accounted for the Terps lone touchdown.