Edsall left asking questions after Maryland's loss to Syracuse

Edsall left asking questions after Maryland's loss to Syracuse
November 9, 2013, 8:30 pm
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Edsall: 'Way too many turnovers, way too many mistakes'

COLLEGE PARK--Randy Edsall sat down at his postgame press conference after Maryland’s 20-3 loss to Syracuse on Saturday in College Park and rattled off a list.

It was nothing more than a list of rudimentary football plays, the kind that get you a pat on the helmet at the end of a drive.

“Hit the right hole. Maintain leverage in your gap. Catch the ball when it’s thrown to you,” Edsall said, his voice strained with what sounded like frustration. “Execute your assignment. Run the proper route. Tackle. Wrap guys up. Don’t just try to body block somebody.

“It’s very simple. You have one job to do.”

And that was the problem Saturday night, according to Edsall--elementary execution. It’s difficult to explain a 20-3 loss to a .500 football team at home in any other way. Or perhaps it was just the easiest.

This wasn’t the 63-0 blowout at Florida State, a team that is proving to be a national title contender. It’s not the loss on the road to Wake Forest where it became clear that starting quarterback C.J. Brown was not healthy and both of the team’s star receivers broke their legs.

This wasn’t even the 40-27 loss to Clemson, a game that was within single digits heading into the fourth quarter.

Four team turnovers, including a stretch where Maryland and Syracuse traded turnovers of five of six straight possessions becomes, simply put, hard to explain.

With just over six minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Maryland had found what seemed to be an offensive spark, driving into Syracuse territory.

On third-and-eight, Brown found wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo on a hook route along the near sideline. It bounced off his hands and fell to the ground to bring up fourth down.

Edsall threw his arms up in disbelief. Maryland would turn the ball over on downs on the next play.

“It gets frustrating when you see things not going the way you want them to out there,” Edsall said. “You’re sitting there, ‘What can I do to help? How can I do something to get them over the hump?’”

It was made worse by the way Syracuse played, in no way spectacular and in few ways of a truly high quality. The Orange themselves turned the ball over twice and had just 10 points at halftime.

It was a slow gashing by the Orange on Saturday, led by running back Jerome Smith and his 25 carries for 103 yards. He was part of a larger Syracuse rushing attack that gained 242 yards on the ground and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

“I don’t think we came out unprepared at all. I think they had a better gameplan,” Maryland defensive lineman Darius Kilgo said. “The running back was just cutting the ball back. We cut his gap off and he would just find places to cut the ball back.”

That made for a slow drain on the defense, which was forced to be on the field a disproportionate amount of the game until Maryland ultimately made up the difference once the game was in hand in the fourth quarter.

Freshman cornerback Will Likely was solid again on Saturday night. He had two tackles and Maryland’s lone interception of Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt.

As players continue to get injured around him on the defensive side of the ball, which cannot be overlooked, Likely has become a mainstay.

“It’s always an impact when you miss a starter, a player that contributes to the team,” Likely said, then downplaying the role of those injuries. “We’re all human. We both play football.”

But injuries are something Maryland will have to deal with over these final three games, now with the specter of three failed attempts at bowl eligibility still floating around them.

They’ll travel to Blacksburg next week to face Virginia Tech. Then it’s back home against a Boston College team that hung tough with both Florida State and Clemson. And finally it’s back on the road, if all goes wrong, for one final shot against NC State to end the regular season.

“We’re not worried about the sixth win because a win is a win,” Likely said. “But we’re going to get there, though. That’s a fact.”