On a long flight back to the East Coast after a seemingly longer night at California, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen broke down the Terrapins’ game film until his computer’s battery died.
He saw mistakes. He saw nerves. He saw penalties.
But just as important to him, he saw a team that didn’t give up well after the 52-13 loss was sealed.
A delicate balancing act faces Friedgen and the Terps, who host James Madison on Saturday. The Terps clearly were the inferior outfit in their opener but still have nearly a full season in front of them and were playing a team that has since vaulted into the top 10 nationally.
“I was concerned something like this could happen,” Friedgen said. “I think what you have to remember too is that we played a very good team playing very, very well. We got them at their best. We have to grow from that experience. We have to take that and learn from it and be better this week than we were last week.”
That might not be the most difficult task. The defense yielded 542 yards, including 300 on just eight plays. The green offensive line struggled just as much, with left tackle Bruce Campbell hindered by a turf toe injury and the interior of the unit manhandled by California’s defensive front.
Friedgen showed his players film of precisely where things went wrong, using the blowout as a teaching tool. But while the Terps won’t take much solace in correcting some ugly mistakes, there is little benefit in fixating on such a rough debut.
“We definitely have to find that line where we are able to let go of that game and still learn from it at the same time,” linebacker Alex Wujciak said. “Obviously, they were a tremendous team and took advantage of every little mistake we made, but we have to move past it and can’t let it beat us the rest of the season.”
In the short term, however, some of the frustrations may resurface. Friedgen and several players emphasized the team’s youth after graduation removed more than a quarter of the roster from a year ago. The Terps had 18 players who made their collegiate debuts against California, including defensive starters A.J. Francis and Demetrius Hartsfield and kicker Nick Ferrara.
That doesn’t count several players who played sparingly earlier in their careers. Maryland had six first-time starters on offense, and the roster features only four players (punter Travis Baltz, center Phil Costa, fullback Cory Jackson and quarterback Chris Turner) with more than 14 career starts.
“This is not going to be an overnight thing,” Friedgen said. “When you have as many young players as we do, it’s going to be a learning experience. We just have to keep having the faith in them and supporting them, and hopefully they’ll get better and better as we go along.”
It’s a message that resonates now, with the bulk of the season in front of the Terps and little defined beyond the vast divide between Maryland and a top-10 team at this stage of the year. Eventually, though, more will be certain about the Terps. And by then, they hope the early humbling they received and the youth they believe contributed to it aren’t what is remembered about this season.
“You’re only young for so long,” receiver Torrey Smith said. “That’s the reality of it. … The big thing for us is to continue to get better each week and not continue to make the same mistakes.”
Notes - Friedgen said he would provide an update on Campbell and safety Jamari McCollough (ankle) on Thursday. Receiver/punt returner Tony Logan (shoulder) is expected to be ready this week. …
An athletic department official said 41,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday’s home opener. Byrd Stadium seats 54,000.
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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