The frustration of Maryland’s football team and the anguish in the voice of its coach Saturday was predicated not just on the latest loss in forgettable fashion.
Rather, there was an underlying problem as the Terrapins attempt to square their effort with the results produced over the last seven weekends.
From the first week of camp, coach Ralph Friedgen was enthused with the work ethic of his outfit, an unwavering trait throughout a 2-5 start. Yet in light of a 20-9 loss to Virginia that removed much of the Terps’ remaining margin for error, it might be time to start wondering whether Maryland eventually will grow weary of the unraveling autumn around them.
“It’s a concern of mine. It really is,” Friedgen said. “The only thing I’ll say to refute that is they haven’t done it yet. I’m amazed. I’ve been on other teams and part of other teams [where] the season has gone a lot better, and yet you had to push them and drive them to get the effort out of them. This team hasn’t been that way.”
It could be youth. It could be eagerness to please. It could be an instilled belief the only way to emerge from an erratic, mistake-prone start of the season is simply to work even harder than before.
The upside for Maryland is the mediocrity permeating every corner of the ACC’s Atlantic Division. All six teams have at least two conference losses (the Terps are 1-2), and the group as a whole is 0-6 against Coastal Division counterparts.
However, it still leaves Maryland to handle things on its end. With a turnover margin (minus-13) ranked 118th of 120 teams nationally and intermittent play in all facets, winning at least four of the final five games could be a daunting task.
Nevertheless, the precedent of preparation leaves veterans such as quarterback Chris Turner believing there is still time to salvage something from the season.
“Every game we come out and we’re fired up and we believe we’re going to win,” Turner said. “We just have to keep doing that. Things are going to go right for us at some point. I know it’s getting down to the nitty-gritty, and we need to start getting wins. They’re must-win games. But I think that right there is inspiration enough.”
Doubts could seep through, especially considering the mercurial nature of some of Maryland’s losses. The Terps scored more than 30 points in losses to Middle Tennessee and Wake Forest. They also combined to reach the end zone once in losses to Rutgers and Virginia.
Yet to date, Maryland’s miscues are mainly confined to shaky playcalling, decision-making and execution rather than effort, which the Terps are determined to keep constant despite their setbacks.
“I think you do for a little bit, but once you see how we come out in practice again, I think those thoughts kind of diminish,” linebacker Alex Wujciak said. “We bust our ass. The effort’s there. Our team practices harder than any team I’ve ever been here with, on defense I know. It’s definitely frustrating.”
Whether getting flustered on Saturdays permeates to the rest of the week, though, remains to be seen.
“It’s still fun to be out there on the field with them, and it would hurt me if that changed,” Friedgen said. “I know human nature. It’s tough to keep going back to the well when you don’t see the fruits of your labor.”
Notes - Friedgen said if the Terps continue to struggle, he’ll consider finding time for Jamarr Robinson and even true freshman Danny O’Brien at quarterback. …
Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield’s broken left hand was damaged worse than first anticipated. Hartsfield, who underwent surgery Sunday, is expected to miss four weeks. …
Punter Travis Baltz (ankle) is expected back full-time this week, but guard Bennett Fulper (shoulder) likely won’t play, and tailback Gary Douglas (shoulder) is questionable. …
Defensive tackle Justin Anderson played for the first time Saturday, becoming the ninth true freshman to appear this season.
• Patrick Stevens can be reached at email@example.com.
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