There haven’t been too many positives for Maryland to take away through its first seven games of the 2015 season.
Suffering from continued blowout losses, a four-game losing skid and the firing of head coach Randy Edsall has brought about hard times for the Terrapins, only in their second year in the Big Ten Conference.
Last weekend’s 31-30 loss to Penn State might be a sign of life, though.
It’s certainly an optimistic outcome following blowout losses in the previous three contests to West Virginia, Michigan and Ohio State by a combined score of 122-34. It was promising for a team that had earned only one lead in the prior 12 quarters – a 7-0 start against the Buckeyes – to battle back and forth with the Nittany Lions in what has started developing into somewhat of an East Coast rivalry in the Big Ten.
Continuing to play relatively poorly in the East Division bout, interim head coach Mike Locksley has to be encouraged by the fact that his team committed five turnovers – the second-highest mark of the year – and still held a fourth quarter lead and was within a single point of pulling off an impressive upset.
“I never felt like our guys tightened up. As a staff, we didn’t flinch. We played and stayed aggressive for four quarters,” Locksley said in a post-game press conference (H/T Carroll County Times). “I had no problem with what we did and how our guys played, and we’re going to continue to play aggressive.”
Turnovers aside, the Terrapins’ performance was particularly refreshing considering the circumstances.
Maryland was coming off the bye week, playing in its first game without Edsall and quarterback Perry Hills was continuing to gain comfort as he was re-instated as the starter a few weeks ago. Even against a Penn State team that has failed to live up to expectations this season, Maryland’s competitiveness was surprising.
They won’t shed this season’s identity as a rebuilding team, but Saturday’s performance could serve as a new beginning for the 2-5 Terps. For a team that still has Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin remaining on the schedule, building confidence is essential.
It’s not as if Maryland played well against Penn State last week. The defense surrendered 31 points to an offense that had eclipsed the 30-point threshold on only one prior occasion. As mentioned previously, five turnovers – two of which came inside the red zone – should’ve halted any chances of competing in the game.
The reason Maryland came close to pulling off the win, though, was because of all it did right.
The defense did force three turnovers in the contest. Despite his struggles to throw the football accurately, Hills did pile up 124 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
It might not be much, but it gives Locksley and the Terrapin coaching staff something to build on in the final five games of the season.
Certainly change will be difficult if the turnover situation isn’t addressed, though. After seven games, the Terps have totaled 24 turnovers, ranking them 127th of the 128 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Even if that number becomes more manageable over the next few weeks, the remainder of the season is going to be a test for this team and the coaching staff.
With a rigorous schedule still ahead, Maryland might not be able to secure the wins it needs to become bowl eligible, but gaining momentum is just as important as this team continues to push forward into the future.
Saturday’s showing is an indication that things might be headed in a more positive direction in College Park.