COLLEGE PARK--Look somewhere between the 20- and 30-yard lines at Byrd Stadium and you’ll have found the biggest story of Maryland’s 2014 spring football game.
For this program’s final home game of the 2013 against Boston College in November, a red and white ACC logo spanned the length of that space. On Friday night, it was blank, wiped clean and now appearing bare.
Just over 8,300 people came on this April night to watch a program in transition, the Atlantic Coast Conference all but in its rearview mirror, but as of yet not officially riding along the Big Ten’s highway.
Friday’s game was a cap on the spring as the wheels of change roll on. Head coach Randy Edsall emphasized football while the signs of change keep popping up. Among them the presence of cameras from the Big Ten Network.
“We got the things done that we wanted to get done this spring and pleased with that,” Edsall said. “The great thing about the spring is we got a chance to evaluate. Guys that don’t make the plays will be the guys that will be standing on the sidelines.”
But if you’re going by the promotions schedule, the gears are already turning. The first several thousand fans in attendance on Friday night received Maryland-colored Big Ten Network t-shirts. Some chose to wear them during the game, giving the first physical reminder of this conference’s presence seeping into its newest lucrative market in the nation’s capital region.
Newly branded pamphlets advertised season ticket packages in lower bowl seats.
Some of those red-shirted patrons filed out in the middle of the second quarter as rain began to fall at Byrd. The exodus came amid a back-and-forth, offense-vs.-defense game that featured its own idiosyncratic scoring system that put a numerical value on first downs, sacks, defensive stops, and a host of other plays.
By halftime, including point accrued during the team’s spring practices, the offense led the defense, 141-117.
“Not enough consistency offensively and then we got it going a little bit and made some big plays,” Edsall said. “But like I said, there’s too much inconsistency out there.”
By the middle of the third quarter, the crowd had thinned significantly as the rain became steadier. The Maryland band, as resilient as it is, remained a stronghold in the seats behind the north end zone.
Starting quarterback C.J. Brown finished 16-of-24 passing for 157 yards and a touchdown. He also threw one interception and came close on another, while fumbling a handoff that was recovered by defensive lineman Andre Monroe.
All quarterbacks wore yellow non-contact jerseys on Friday night.
“I didn’t think C.J. played that well tonight. I thought he was very inconsistent,” Edsall said. “It’s my fault. I should have put these guys in white jerseys and made them live then they’d played with more of a sense of urgency.”
The battle at running back will continue into the fall. Four players could see legitimate time as the starter in 2014. Brandon Ross stood out on Friday, rushing four times for 90 yards and two touchdowns. One touchdown scamper was 75 yards.
The offense came out with the win, 187-143. But don’t expect scores like that any time soon in the Big Ten.
More news and notes from Friday’s game are set to come from CSN.