Maryland needs a Ted Lasso moment. Football is life, death, and just football.
This past Friday Maryland’s football team had the opportunity to change the course of its program with a #5 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes coming to College Park. There was real reason for hope throughout the entire game with Maryland having the talent to finally compete with the top of the Big 10. Fans, including this writer, believed in this team and its chances of winning. To quote Ted Lasso, “I believe in believe.”
Football is life
There was plenty of reason for optimism heading into the game. Despite knowing the results, looking back there was a lot to believe in. Three consecutive strong recruiting classes. Facilities upgraded to the highest standard ever seen in College Park. Undefeated. Heisman trophy candidate Tualia (more on him later).
This team was bringing “mucho mucho joy.” to its fans all over the country. And to be fair, for a quarter, Maryland showed the signs of life that they could move the offense and provide a defense that could leave its corners in man coverage to disrupt the Iowa offense. They wanted to force Iowa into throwing the ball and Iowa started the game by doing just that. Iowa typically known for its running game was content taking chances down the field and playing into Maryland’s concepts.
Even with false start penalties that ended back to back drives, Maryland seemed to have Iowa playing the pace they hoped for and found the end zone to lead 7 – 3 at the end of the first quarter. While the margin for error was slim, Maryland belonged.
Football is death
In an effort to put the ball in its best players hands, Maryland’s season took a turn for the worse when its star wide receiver Dontay Demus was placed as a kick return where he took the ball laterally and suffered a brutal hyperextension of his leg that caused him to not only fumble the football near the goal line but also has his season end. Demus was on track for a huge day with four receptions totaling 61 yards early into the game.
With the loss of one of their top weapon and down on the scorecards, Maryland pressed the narrative that they were ready for their big moment attempting to push the ball down field. Inn doing so, Tualia through his second interception of the season, turning the ball over to the Hawkeyes in great field position. The momentum changes and turnovers were strangling any chance Maryland had. While it was only the second quarter, Maryland’s defense soon showed signs of exhaustion that allowed Iowa to score an insurmountable 31 points and go into the locker room shell shocked 33 – 7.
About this time, social media started to blow up this team’s credibility, especially coach Locksley, as well as the “Same old Maryland.” conversations.
Football is just football.
It was extremely tempting to watch this game and elevate the levels of frustration about the night’s performance. The team’s overall play was not where it needed to be to compete with Iowa. Undoubtedly, the Hawkeyes deserve the credit for the win. However, I do ask that the fans take a moment to reflect before they spew hate around these kids and coaches. I ask them to remember where this team was three years ago one more time.
There were calls to end the program all together in 2018. A report indicated that Maryland had a “toxic culture.” and a “coaching environment based on fear and intimidation.”. We had one of our own players tragically pass away. Parents could not trust their children to be a part of this program. Not only this, but they were transitioning to one of the most difficult conferences in all of NCAA.
Now after a 4 – 1 start to the season, only losing to the #3 ranked team in the country, we are questioning their ability and heart? We are questioning a coaching staff that turned around this program to give hope of winning in the Big 10? This is unfair.
Likely, they will struggle to find enough wins to become bowl eligible at the end of the season. But this is not the same of Maryland team. Why? Because we had real hope of winning this game. Elie Wiesel said “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” and we are not indifferent to this team. We are upset. We are emotional. We believe.
This is not the ACC of a few years ago. #9 Michigan, #7 Ohio State, #4 Penn State, and #11 Michigan State are all in our Big Ten East division. Throw in #3 Iowa and Maryland has one of the most difficult schedules in country. The only games in which Maryland will likely be favored are Minnesota, Indiana, and a much-improved Rutgers team.
We cannot choose to ignore the loss. It seems appropriate that the loss came on a night that was celebrating mental health. Once again, it would be easy to sulk in our own sorrows after yet another embarrassing loss on the national stage. However, I implore fans to remember. It is also just a loss. It does not count more or less than any other. As Bill Parcells said, “You are what your record says you are.” and this team is 4 –1. If this same old Maryland team was in the ACC, I’d argue they would be one of the favorites to win the conference including over a down Clemson team. Maryland should keep that in mind as they continue this season.
The schedule remains brutal. Will they beat Ohio State this week on the road? Likely not. Can they compete? Absolutely. Will they compete? That is the question we need to see answered. I believe that Tualia is better than he showed. I believe that Mike Locksley has raised the standard for this program. I believe that the defense will play better when they are not on the field the vast majority of an half. I believe in this team. I believe in believe.