Filed my game advance a bit ago for tomorrow’s e-edition.
Figured more people would get a look at it on the blog than online on a Saturday morning, so here it is…..
Travis Ivey was in no mood for much reflection. The four guaranteed games in the Maryland defensive tackle’s career —- and the hope the Terrapins could reverse the course of a difficult season in November —- did not permit it.
Still, Maryland is 2-6 as it comes off its lone open date. The Terps must win out to extend their season beyond Thanksgiving weekend, starting with Saturday’s visit to Carter-Finley Stadium to face N.C. State (3-5, 0-4 ACC).
Victories and success are no sure things, as Maryland discovered over eight rocky weekends to begin the season. Effort, though, is the one thing the Terps are determined to maintain.
“I feel like we have a lot of pride,” Ivey said. “Coaches talk to guys about how we’re blue collar and how we like to come to work every day. That’s this team’s identity. That’s what we do. We play hard. No matter the situation, we play hard. I think that won’t waver, regardless of the results.”
Coach Ralph Friedgen cites work ethic and a fun-loving nature as the primary reasons he enjoys this year’s version of the Terps so much. The group’s eager-to-please nature carried through the summer and into the season, and Friedgen’s criticism of this team is much more muted than past Maryland editions.
It’s created a complex dichotomy —- a man who frequently grouses about his distaste for losing appreciating the totality of a team struggling more than any other in his nine seasons in College Park.
“That’s what’s weird about it,” Friedgen said.
Friedgen continues to hope the Terps can uncork a winning streak, continues to tinker with practice routines and motivational approaches. Nevertheless, the sobering reality facing Maryland is its next loss clinches an assortment of unwanted things.
No bowl. No winning record. Effectively no scant hope of an Atlantic Division title. Chances for all three existed at this juncture a year ago, an interesting comparison since that team faded after a 6-2 start.
“Coach always tells us if we lose our effort, we’re done,” linebacker Alex Wujciak said. “I think just the effort we put out there during practice and during games is there. Last year, if this team was 2-6, it would be tanked, easy. Practice would have sucked and everything would be miserable. This year’s team, I know defensively we’re fired up and ready to go out there.”
Added center Phil Costa: “That’s one great thing you can say about our team. We had a great work ethic and we still do. It’s a shame we couldn’t pull it together on Saturdays sometimes, but if you have a team that really wants to win, you have a good future.”
Before the future arrives, the Terps must contend with the present. The bye afforded opportunity to further analyze the foibles of the season, but Maryland’s issues are just as plain now as they already were.
Too many turnovers and, earlier in the season, penalties. Injuries in the wrong places. And plenty of inexperience.
Sometimes, a rough year can reflect poorly on a team’s veterans. Yet Friedgen repeatedly said he has no issues with his dozen scholarship seniors, who have tried to imbue the rest of the roster with a consistent daily approach.
“When you build a team, it always starts at the top,” defensive end Deege Galt said. “Regardless, seniors and juniors, the guys that are the ones at the top, if they’re working hard, it’s going to trickle down. It stinks that our legacy is going to be hard work rather than winning a national championship.”
With something still left to play for, Friedgen remains optimistic this year’s team is remembered for finishing strong. If it’s to happen, it will begin this afternoon.
The Terps can’t make any guarantees about the results. But they are promising effort will remain constant throughout a daunting month.
“I really do think this group is going to hold up,” Galt said. “Who knows? If we hit things right these next couple weeks, anything can happen.”
—- Patrick Stevens