COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — After Maryland opened the season with four straight wins, the Terrapins figured it wouldn’t take long to reach the six-victory mark necessary to become bowl eligible.
More than six weeks later, the Terps remain in pursuit of the elusive win that would put them in position to earn their first bowl bid since 2010.
Since defeating West Virginia 37-0 on Sept. 21, the Terrapins have lost three of four. Coming off its second bye during that stretch, Maryland (5-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts Syracuse (4-4, 2-2) on Saturday with one familiar goal in mind.
“Now is a good time to get that sixth win,” defensive end Zeke Riser said Tuesday. “We started 4-0, and it was like, we’re going to get to six really quickly. It hasn’t worked out that way.”
The slide began with a 63-0 loss at Florida State. Then, after a 27-26 victory over Virginia, Maryland lost at Wake Forest and at home against Clemson.
During the bye week, coach Randy Edsall reminded his players that it’s not too late for them to make something of a season that started so well.
“I told them: We’re a 5-3 football team. Where we want to go is up to them,” Edsall said. “I thought we had some good practices last week. Sunday they were focused. They know what’s on the line. Now it’s up to them to practice well this week and try to get the sixth win.”
The bye week enabled several players to heal, most notably quarterback C.J. Brown, who missed the Clemson game with an upper-body injury. Backup Caleb Rowe performed suitably in his place, but Brown is more versatile in the pocket and a clear threat to run.
“Those two weeks off definitely helped,” Brown said. “I feel a lot better, especially out there in practice, being able to go full speed. I wasn’t myself (before).”
When he gets into the huddle on Saturday, Brown won’t need to give a pep talk. To a man, the Terrapins know what’s at stake.
“We’ve got a good opportunity this week playing at home,” Brown said. “Getting No. 6 right now would be huge.”
Maryland hasn’t seen postseason action since Ralph Friedgen guided the team into the Military Bowl in 2010. Riser, a transfer from Houston in his first year with the Terrapins, has been sharing tales in the locker room about the joy of playing in a bowl game.
“I’ve been pushing the light at the end of the tunnel effect more than anything because I’m the only guy on the roster that’s been to more than one bowl game,” he said. “So with a lot of the guys that don’t really know what they’re about, just seeing them on TV and everything, I’m trying to give them something to strive for, something to look forward to at the end of the year because that’s really what we’re working for right now.”
The Terrapins have no intention of finishing 6-6. But to get seven wins, or eight or nine, they first have to get the sixth out of the way.
“Six isn’t the goal; it’s a step in the right direction,” Brown said.
“Not a lot of guys know how it all works, but pretty much, the more you win, the closer you get to playing in January,” Riser said. “That’s what you want to do. We could get to bowl game, then play two weeks after we find out what bowl game we’re going to. We want a better bowl game, want to go to a better area, all that stuff.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)