COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland made significant strides in its third season under Randy Edsall, winning seven games and earning a bowl bid to conclude a 60-year run in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

To thrive next season in the Big Ten, the Terrapins must continue to progress and keep their best players on the field through December.

Although Maryland (7-6) lost to Marshall 31-20 on Friday in the Military Bowl, the disappointment was softened by an overall feeling that the program moved forward in 2013. The Terrapins more than doubled their combined win total of the previous two years, defeated West Virginia and Virginia Tech and finished with their first bowl appearance since 2010.

“When it is all said and done, we had a great year,” quarterback C.J. Brown declared. “We had a winning season and were able to extend it to the postseason. We’ll be ready next year. We’re going to use this to prepare for the future.”

One year ago, Brown was among four Maryland quarterbacks to sustain a season-ending injury. This season, the team’s two best wide receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, each broke a leg in the same game. The Terrapins also lost both their starting cornerbacks, Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson, and played two games without an injured Brown.

“What these young men fought through all year long, with the adversity, the injuries that we had, for them to continue to battle and go out and play … this group to me is really special,” Edsall said.

Injuries happen to all football teams, but the Terrapins seem to be getting more than their share. There’s no obvious solution, so adding depth through recruiting is a priority for the offseason.

In the meantime, the Terrapins will work on improving the team as it stands now. Brown, Diggs and Long will return, and the starting defense in the Military Bowl listed only two seniors.

“We’re planning on building on what we have now, and what we have now, the sky is the limit,” junior defensive end Andre Monroe said. “As long as we’re all on the same page, we’re going to make it happen.”

The Terrapins have bought into Edsall’s team-first philosophy, and it shows in the team’s record. After improving from 2-10 in 2011 to 4-8 to 7-6, Maryland next year will be tested in games against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State.

Edsall and the Terps are up for the challenge.

“What’s happened for them this year is, now they understand and they believe in themselves,” the coach said. “They believe that regardless of who’s out on the field, we can win and we’re going to win. This season really helped as we leave the ACC and enter into the Big Ten.”

Sophomore Brandon Ross, who ran for 116 yards against Marshall, can’t wait to get back on the field in 2014.

“We took big steps this year from last year,” he said. “We seem always be hit with injuries, but our goal this offseason is to continue to get bigger, faster and stronger so we go into the Big Ten as a force next year.”

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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