- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2011

The first Maryland player to trudge into postgame interviews Saturday, just as is often the case, was quarterback Danny O’Brien.

The sophomore was peppered with questions about everything from his three interceptions in a 37-31 loss to West Virginia at Byrd Stadium to the impact of losing two receivers to suspension to whether he considered running on the Terrapins’ final play from scrimmage.

Ever-poised, O’Brien deftly handled it all, even if the misery of Maryland’s latest loss to West Virginia clearly gnawed at him well after the game ended.

“Next week can’t come fast enough,” O’Brien said.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget O’Brien is still a 20-year-old, even if his maturity and work ethic suggest he is a far older soul. People can act well beyond their years, but as O’Brien frequently said in the offseason, there is little substitute for experience.

Saturday, he received an experience he’d just as soon forget.

O’Brien was 34-for-52 for 289 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, the latter number matching a career high. He struggled to settle in early, then completed 20-for-26 for 177 yards in the second half until he tossed an interception that sealed the Terps’ first loss of the season.

Those are the memorable stats gleaned from an afternoon of watching Maryland (1-1) lose to West Virginia (3-0) for the sixth straight time. Also worth considering: Beyond a cameo last year, it was O’Brien’s first look at the Mountaineers’ 3-3-5 defense and the personnel populating it. And for all his accolades, last year’s ACC rookie of the year was only making his 12th career college start.

That’s a limited set of data for anyone. Heck, there were only three other losses - his first setback at Clemson, a stifling at the hands of Miami and a close call against Florida State, all last year - for O’Brien to use as a comparison.

“They’re all kind of unique,” O’Brien said. “I’m definitely going to put it behind me. This is the worst feeling in the world.”

That was evident to teammates in the Terps’ locker room, where O’Brien is a far more established figure now than at this time a year ago, when he was still a week away from making his first start.

Since then, his detail-oriented approach and voracious appetite for preparation have both become better known and served him well. In all likelihood, they’ll continue to do so.

“He’s a thinker,” linebacker Kenny Tate said. “He’s going to watch this game probably a billion times. I just looked at him and [said], ‘You’re a good quarterback, Danny. Mistakes are going to happen. Things are going to go wrong in the game.’ Just the fight we had today shows what we’re capable of.”

There are two ways for both O’Brien and the Terps to move forward. One is to dwell upon the 34-10 deficit the Terps faced early in the third quarter, a product of both Maryland’s turnovers and its defense’s inability to bring down the Mountaineers’ elusive skill position players. The other is to ponder what went right while scoring 21 straight points.

Regardless, O’Brien will remain a focal point going forward, even if he struggled at times Saturday.

“I think he may put the loss on his shoulders, but we’ll remind him, and he’s smart enough to realize this himself, that it’s nowhere near his fault alone,” left guard Andrew Gonnella said. “It was a team effort.”

O’Brien knows that. He didn’t blame the absence of suspended wideouts Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler for the early sluggishness and reiterated the difficulty of winning when a quarterback commits three turnovers.

But mainly, he looked ahead, whether it was to Saturday’s date with Temple or the nine more regular season games to follow it.

“It’s not going to hurt us going forward,” O’Brien said. “It just stings right after the loss.”

NOTES: Coach Randy Edsall said he did not have an established timeframe for the return of wide receivers Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree. Both were suspended Thursday, the same day Tyler was charged with second-degree assault.

“They have to regain my trust for what they did,” Edsall said. “It could be two weeks, it could be four weeks, it could be six weeks, it could be the whole season. It’s going to depend on them - if they can determine or show me that they can be trusted to do everything the way it’s supposed to be done.”

• Edsall said it was “too early to tell” if linebacker Darin Drakeford will play Saturday. Drakeford briefly left the Sept. 5 opener against Miami with what he told reporters was a sprained ankle. He did not play against West Virginia.

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