It just didn't seem possible. Not after what happened last season. This team paid their dues, time after time (after time, after time). After being forced to start a linebacker at quarterback last season, Maryland is again facing a situation where injuries are eroding away the momentum of a fast start. As a fan, when you saw Deon Long taken off the field on a cart with a broken leg and later, in the same game, saw the expression on Stefon Diggs' face after he suffered the same injury, you couldn't believe what you were watching. It felt like you were in a game of Wheel-of-Fortune where a you'd constantly build up a bankroll, only to see it vanish in an instant as that pesky wheel landed on "BANKRUPT"...again!
As a writer covering the team, you really feel sorry for the players, especially the ones hurt, but also the ones in the locker room who must have thoughts of "not this again" creeping into their heads. For head coach Randy Edsall, following Saturday's loss to Clemson, you could tell that the string of bad luck might be something that he has in the back of his mind, but he's doing everything he can to move forward with the next man up philosophy.
When asked about his team's unfortunate injury situation, Edsall seemed almost at a loss for words, wanting to express his frustration while still holding back. "It's a good question" Edsall said. "Let me say this, I would never say it publicly, because it's, I don't know, maybe I'm so simple, it's too simple. We don't have any control over these injuries and what happens. And when you don't have control over it, how can you sit there and worry about things that you can't control?"
From a coach's perspective, how else can you approach a situation like what Maryland has gone through over the past 12 months? The games continue, the sun rises and sets, and the next person on the depth chart has to step up and show that they can help the team accomplish the goals they set out to achieve at the start of the season. What other choice do you have?
"But the things that we can control is, we can control our attitude about how we're going to approach adversity and I think that's the biggest thing because whether its football, whether it's life, adversity is going to set in." Edsall continued. "And when it does, it's all on how you react to that adversity and if you don't react in a positive way or if you as an individual say, ‘I got to do more,' because of what's taken place, then you're not doing the things necessary to help your team overcome that adversity and things could always be worse."
While Maryland's loss on Saturday proved to be a frustrating one for fans and for a team trying to get that elusive sixth win to become bowl eligible, one of the positives that could be seen through that game was that the team has bought into Edsall's philosophy. They're not going to ask for sympathy; they're going to continue to work to overcome the adversity they're facing.
"Going into this past week we prepared for it really well" wide receiver Levern Jacobs said following his first start in place of the injured Deon Long and Stefon Diggs. "We weren't really worried about the people we lost; we were just worried about making the plays that we needed to make and the people that we needed to stepped up. We weren't really surprised about anything."
Linebacker Matt Robinson echoed Jacobs when asked about dealing with the injuries over the past two seasons, saying ""As a player you definitely ask why is it happening to us, but we've definitely developed a next man up mentality because we've gone through this before. We would love to have the guys back and not have injuries, but we know it's a part of the game. I think everyone's mind is in the right place and we're not dwelling on it too bad."
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Maryland has dealt with adversity before. And while it's a situation that you obviously don't want to find yourself in, it appears Randy Edsall has his players believing that they can overcome this and any other adversity life throws their way in the future.
"As a head coach, I got to make sure that I'm sending that message to our assistant coaches and then to the players, and then the assistant coaches, have to carry that message as well to our players" Edsall said. "And that's how you have to deal with it because someday, someday we'll get the breaks that we hopefully maybe deserve. But, for me, if I approach it any other way than I'm doing a disservice to the players, to our institution, and really to myself because what we do here is we develop young men and yes we play a game, but I've got to make sure that when these guys leave here and whatever they go into for the rest of their lives, I hope I've set an example on how to deal with adversity and what you have to do to overcome that instead of feeling sorry for yourself."
"And, you know, I think that's just what it's all about. And you just keep fighting, you keep working, and you keep doing the things necessary to overcome whatever comes your way. And to me, that's the role and responsibility, first and foremost with the head football coach, which is me."