COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s first year under Randy Edsall began with a flourish and ended with eight straight defeats, the last of which put an unwanted exclamation point on one of the worst seasons in the history of the program.
The Terrapins weren’t just bad, they were historically awful. Maryland (2-10) tied a school record for losses in a season, including seven straight by at least 10 points for the first time ever.
This, from a team that went 9-4 in 2010 under coach Ralph Friedgen.
The Edsall Era started on Labor Day with a 32-24 win over Miami before a sellout crowd and a national audience. Not only did the Terrapins create a positive buzz with the victory, but their colorful uniforms also gained attention around the country.
There would be no further highlights. Maryland won only one more game — over in-state foe Towson, an FCS team. And the Terrapins led that one by only 7-3 at halftime.
Some of the losses were lopsided from the outset, such as the 38-7 drubbing at home against Temple and the 41-16 spanking at Florida State. Other defeats involved monumental collapses, including one against Clemson in which the Terrapins led 35-17 in the third quarter before falling 56-45.
None were more humiliating than the final one, on Saturday at North Carolina State, when Maryland let a 41-14 advantage turn into a 56-41 defeat that capped the Terrapins’ second 10-loss season in three years.
Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, who played on both those teams, said, “I think this is worse with this game. It just stapled our season. It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve had as an athlete — ever.”
Perhaps the best thing about this year is that next season can’t possibly be worse.
“Anything that probably could have gone wrong this year has gone wrong,” Edsall said. “I don’t know what else could have come up. But we’re going to put a program in place that will stand the test of time, and we won’t go through the things we’ve had to go through this year. When we have adversity, we’ll be better equipped to get through it.”
Upon his arrival, Edsall laid down a strict set of rules that caught some of the players by surprise. Several walked away from the program and six others were suspended, including sophomore defensive lineman David Mackall, whom Edsall suspects won’t want to return next year.
Clearly, the players had difficulty making the transition from Friedgen, who occasionally choked up in emotion when talking about “my boys.” Next season, the Terps will know how to act.
“It’s all about responsibility,” quarterback C.J. Brown said. “You come in and you don’t really know what to expect, but you know you come in with boundaries and guidelines. You learn what’s expected of you, and this is how things are going to be done. You have the discipline factor, and the high expectations coach sets for you. He’s set that, it’s been made clear, and everyone is going to buy in.”
Maryland violated NCAA rules by exceeding practice-time limits during the 2010 season and allowing graduate assistants and interns to monitor summer workouts. As a result, the school imposed the self-imposed penalty of cutting practice time from 20 hours a week to 17 1/2.
It wasn’t exactly an ideal scenario for a first-year coach and a fresh set of assistants trying to implement a new system on offense and defense.
“Going into the season, I don’t think any of each realized how much of an impact that was going to have, especially when you’re coming into a new situation,” Edsall said. “That was something that probably had a bigger impact than what we anticipated.”
Injuries did, too. The Terrapins lost several starters to injury, most notably offensive guard Andrew Gonnella, linebacker Kenny Tate and quarterback Danny O’Brien. The lone positive is that several of the replacements were freshmen who received unexpected on-the-job training.
“Obviously, the injuries didn’t help us at all,” junior defensive tackle Joe Vellano said. “There were a lot of changes on defense but there are a lot of guys coming back. The freshmen are getting a lot of experience. The second year in a system is a huge plus.”
Edsall, who has five years left on his contract, is confident better days lie ahead.
“I think that what we’ve been able to do is we’ve been able to establish a plan for what we want to do,” he said. “We’re not where we want to be or where we need to be. Anytime you’re installing something new, it does take time. You just can’t go from the ground floor to the top floor without doing the process along the way. And the process along the way is about team, it’s about trust, it’s about belief. That’s the foundation.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)