- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

In the grand tradition of counting up wins and losses at the conclusion of a season, the Maryland football team did precisely that after Saturday’s 28-21 loss at Boston College.

The Terrapins hardly liked what they saw. After the preseason bravado that comes standard with any team, four victories against ranked opponents and an assortment of puzzling, ill-timed losses, the final numbers seemed incomprehensible.

Yet there it was, a 7-5 record to show for a weird and wacky year. Just a week removed from needing two victories to play for a conference title, Maryland was presented with a much more difficult task than facing Virginia Tech next weekend. Instead, the Terps must come to terms with the mediocrity that their record implies.

“As far as the big wins we have against top-25 teams, it really doesn’t,” linebacker Dave Philistin said. “I’ve been on teams in the past where you really feel like you’re not really that good, but at least you can play hard. This team, the way we stick through it with each other and the way we keep pounding and persevering, it doesn’t [feel like 7-5].”

It isn’t just a sour sense that Maryland must cope with in the coming month after closing with back-to-back losses to Florida State and Boston College. The Terps’ postseason destination might not be known until Sunday, though there’s a distinct possibility they will land in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho.

The Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. - as well as an at-large berth in a handful of games - is also a possibility. None of them will match the expectations Maryland had only a fortnight ago.

Like so many other facets of the unpredictable Terps, it is difficult to arrive at a concrete answer for why the season unfolded as it did. Perhaps the whole was less than the sum of its parts. Maybe, given the inconsistency, there is no way to tell who these guys really were all along.

There’s also the possibility that the record - no matter how bizarrely Maryland arrived at it - perfectly reflects reality, though the Terps refuse to accept that.

“I think a lot of people would agree our record doesn’t indicate what type of team we are,” quarterback Chris Turner said.

A stroll through the national statistics shows a team ranked in the top 25 percent nationally in only one of 17 major categories (net punting) and in the top half of just six. Meanwhile, turnover margin (98th) and scoring offense (tied for 100th) were especially worrisome. Individually, linebacker Alex Wujciak (tied for 13th in tackles) was the only Terps player in the top 30 of any category.

It all added up to an average season. It wasn’t great, despite the thrills of upending California, Clemson, Wake Forest and North Carolina. It wasn’t dreadful, even though losses to Middle Tennessee and Virginia and the home finale flop against Florida State felt that way.

Maryland was one of six ACC teams to finish with a 4-4 conference record. Eight other conference teams finished within one overall victory of the Terps.

“There’s a lot of good teams in the ACC, but this team is definitely better than 7-5 and what we showed this season,” Wujciak said.

Maryland had chances to show otherwise in the past three months. Now the Terps are out of time, and the final tally of wins and losses will resonate longer and clearer than any pleadings upon the season’s conclusion.

“There’s a lot of things,” Philistin said. “You want to come out to the games [against ranked teams] the same as the games that are not. You can’t really pinpoint it or blame it on one person. You just know offense, defense and special teams need to play as a cohesive unit.

“When everything’s on its wheels rolling, we look good. But sometimes it’s not always like that.”

Notes - Coach Ralph Friedgen said he hopes to have receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (strained calf) back when the Terps resume practice next week. … Defensive linemen Dion Armstrong and Travis Ivey and wideout Emani Lee-Odai have ankle injuries; tackle Bruce Campbell has an injured shoulder. Friedgen said he expects all four to be available for the bowl.



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