Final score: 7-6.
Those are usually my favorite games. Pure defensive struggle. It makes me think of a classic SEC slobber knocker, featuring two top-ten teams and two top-ten defenses fighting tooth and nail for every yard.
Only this was Maryland versus William & Mary. An ACC team versus and FCS team. This wasn’t a classic defensive slobber knocker; this was a sloppy and embarrassing football game for two less-than-stellar football teams.
William & Mary can hold their heads up high. This will give them confidence going into the rest of their season. They were underdogs playing against a BCS team on the road, and they could have won. The Terps simply embarrassed themselves in front of their home crowd.
Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking 2nd year Head Coach Randy Edsall wasn’t on the hot seat, though, even before this game. He inherited a nine-win team and turned them into a two-win team. He lost a plethora of players to transfer who didn’t seem to mesh with his my-way-or-the-highway approach. He even ridiculed his fans halfway through his losing season for not showing up to the games to watch his pathetic brand of football.
Yet he seemed to be on the mend after the debacle that was last season. The Terps had a solid recruiting class, and bolstered their coaching staff with new coordinators Mike Locksley and Brian Stewart, who both boast impressive resumes. There was an air of confidence going into the 2012 season, and Edsall was slowly making his way into good graces.
Then came the Tribe from William & Mary. A team that should have lost by 30 points to Maryland came in and outplayed their opponents for most of the game. Luckily for the Terps, they turned it around with barely enough time and came away victorious.
Hey a win is a win right? Edsall and company should be happy, right? Wrong. Yes, in the Win-Loss column, a win is a win. But you better believe, this only makes Edsall’s seat hotter. It’s not even the final score that’s so disturbing; it’s how the Terps played. Granted, the offense was being led by a true freshman quarterback, the first to start a game for the Terps since 1999, and the defense actually did a pretty darn good job on the day.
But four turnovers, costly penalties, no semblance of a ground attack, a 30% 3rd down conversion percentage, and losing the time-of-possession battle indicates one thing: lack of preparation. This comes down directly on Edsall. The Terps had months and months to properly prepare for this game, and they came out absolutely flat.
It’s one thing if his Terrapins played like this in an opening weekend game against, say, Alabama. Fans would still be upset, but everyone would understand why they played the way they played. They would simply be outmatched. But in a game against an FCS team, holding a major talent advantage while playing at home? That should be a win.
Then consider the stakes for Edsall. Trying to prove that he is in fact the right man to lead the Terps to glory, and trying to prove that this was a different team than the one that won merely two games last year? That should be a triumphant and convincing win. But it wasn’t. The Terps just barely squeaked out with a ‘W’.
Hey, there’s a lot of time left in this season for Edsall and his team to show who they really are. They have a good opportunity next weekend when they take on Temple, who beat them by 31 points last year. Do I think the Terps are as bad as they looked opening weekend? No. But do I think Edsall has a reason to be incredibly fearful for his job at this point? You bet.