Maryland was far from perfect Monday night. The same could not be said of its result.
The Terrapins, debuting a new coaching staff and an up-tempo offense (and, yes, difficult-to-miss new uniforms) before a packed Byrd Stadium, outlasted Miami 32-24 to collect a solid victory in coach Randy Edsall’s debut.
Nick Ferrara kicked four field goals – including the go-ahead score with 1:39 remaining – and the Terrapin defense scored twice to help overcome some red zone foibles and upend the shorthanded Hurricanes in the season opener for both teams.
Maryland managed only 19 points in seven trips inside the 20. It also cobbled together seven drives of at least 60 yards, almost effortlessly shredding Miami until it neared the end zone.
“I know there’s things out there, but I’m not going to dwell on those things,” Edsall said. “Yeah, we left a lot of points on the board and we have to get that, but I think the bigger story is how this team showed resiliency.”
Actually, the biggest story was one of rebirth for both programs. Miami generated much of the attention coming into coach Al Golden’s first game because of an NCAA investigation into the claims of disgraced and jailed former booster Nevin Shapiro. Nine Hurricanes were suspended, including quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence.
Meanwhile, most of the buzz coming from Maryland dealt with team’s new uniforms – and it continued throughout the game. The Terps donned helmets and jerseys featuring both elements of the state flag, in all probability the first time multiple 17th century coat-of-arms were featured so prominently on a nationally televised contest of any kind.
The emblems of the Calvert and Crossland families were frequently seen zipping down the field before sputtering once reaching the 10, a concern the Terps must correct before facing West Virginia in their next game Sept. 17.
“We did really good in the field, when we were free-wheeling,” quarterback Danny O’Brien said. “We got in the red zone and for whatever reason just came up with three. To win consistently, we’re going to have to score in the red zone because we moved the ball great.”
In the long run, the Hurricanes will get most of their players back from suspension and go about their business. Maryland will come out in countless new combinations as the season unfolds.
The strong first impression, though, belonged the Terps.
O’Brien threw for 348 yards and a touchdown, finding a new posse of primary receivers with ease. Kevin Dorsey had a career-best 124 yards, including a 52-yard reception to set up Ferrara’s fourth field goal to give Maryland a 26-24 edge.
“I didn’t tell you much during preseason, but I told you I thought we had some receivers who could get the job done,” Edsall said. “I thought he spread the ball around a lot tonight to everybody.”
It was left to the defense, though, to solidify the victory. On the Hurricanes’ previous drive, which yielded a go-ahead field goal, senior cornerback Cameron Chism was called for holding on a long third down to extend the drive.
He authored an in-game comeback of sorts, returning a Morris interception 54 yards for a touchdown to bump Maryland’s lead to eight.
“I just told myself once I had a pass interference that I had to redeem myself and make a big play and that’s what happened,” Chism said.
That set off the crowd of 52,875, the seventh-largest in school history and the biggest at Byrd since the 2007 home finale against Boston College. It also rankled Edsall, who hoped Chism would take a knee and allow the Terps to run out the clock.
Maryland survived offering Miami an extra opportunity when Kenny Tate intercepted Morris as time expired. It sent the remnants of the soggy crowd into a greater frenzy as Edsall became only the second Terps coach in the last 50 years to begin his tenure with a victory.
“That was the loudest I’ve heard Byrd Stadium in a while,” guard Andrew Gonnella said. “It was great to have the fans support us like that and I hope they continue to do it. This is not something they told us to say. I’m just amazed at how that stadium was rocking.”
One game – whichever way it swung – was never going to dictate the entirety of Maryland’s season. It didn’t hurt, though, to satisfy a fan base that was lukewarm when Edsall was hired over former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach in January.
No, it wasn’t a perfect night. The defense struggled to contain Miami running back Lamar Miller, a bungled snap cost Ferrara a short field goal in the fourth quarter and three defensive starters – Darin Drakeford, Eric Franklin and Isaiah Ross –hobbled off with injuries (Drakeford, who returned after being carted off, told reporters he rolled an ankle).
But it was Maryland’s night. And for starters, that was plenty good enough.