- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

Maryland’s record slowly has come ever-closer to aligning with the forgettable 2-10 mark of two years ago.

Losses pile up, six in a row now. And yet the Terrapins (2-8, 1-5 ACC), who visit Wake Forest on Saturday, insist this is a far different season than 2009.

From their perspective, it’s understandable. Only three of the starters in last week’s 45-21 loss to Notre Dame were regular starters in 2009: Left tackle R.J. Dill, defensive tackle A.J. Francis and linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield.

Just three players — Dill, Hartsfield and cornerback Cameron Chism — have started at least six games in both seasons. Francis would join that list if he gets the nod in the Terps’ final two games.

From the players’ perspective, it is different. Maryland has cycled through a combined 40 starters on offense and defense, but many either redshirted or were not yet in the program when the Terps faced their last tailspin.

“It’s a major difference,” said defensive tackle Joe Vellano, who played sparingly in the second half of the 2009 season. “Just getting a couple snaps here and there, it’s like a ‘Please don’t mess up’ kind of way and you’re just trying to do your job, mainly. It’s just tough.”

As easy as the comparisons are to make — and with the Terps facing their second 10-loss season in three years if they can’t break out of their downward spiral in the next two weeks, the comparisons also are understandable and legitimate — the circumstances are far from the same.

The 2009 team graduated the core of an eight-win team and possessed little experience on the offensive line. This year’s bunch retained many crucial contributors from a nine-win team, including three starters on the offensive line.

Two years ago, longtime coach Ralph Friedgen endured his lousiest season in College Park, though it wasn’t hard to see some of that team’s struggles coming. This fall, first-year coach Randy Edsall’s debut unfolded worse than anyone would have guessed a few months ago.

The players are different, too. And being in the midst of things rather than simply watching adds a layer of misery to enduring a rough season.

“It’s tougher just because of the fact you’re out there,” said quarterback C.J. Brown, who redshirted in 2009 and will make his fourth start Saturday. “Technically, if you’re on the sideline you can’t do anything. You’re out there in practice helping the guys get better, and it’s still tough. You just want to go out there and wish the best for your team in that aspect.”

There’s one other noteworthy — and troubling — difference between the two forgettable experiences. The 2009 Terps entered the fourth quarter within a possession of their opponents in all but three games. Maryland has trailed by double figures entering the final quarter seven times this season, including in each of the past four games.

“This year, just working this offseason, working those runs when it’s 105 [degrees] on the turf and running all summer and just kind of dying next to the guy next to you — we’ve done the hard work,” Vellano said. “Every game, it’s always the self-inflicted errors that hurt us. it’s real tough. No one wants to be in this situation that we’re in. You just have to have a short memory and go out with some pride.”

That’s cornerback Trenton Hughes’ hope. The senior, who played mainly on special teams two years ago and was a regular in 2010, made his first start of the season last week.

Maryland’s best-case scenario has declined week after week, with opportunities to contend for a conference title and a bowl game long gone. But the Terps still can win four games, a priority for players who want nothing to do with enduring comparisons to Maryland’s last 2-10 team.

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