A palpable buzz has emerged this week on Maryland's campus, where the Terrapins football team will host No. 20 Ohio State in the program's highest-profile home game in several years. Byrd Stadium is expected to be full or close to it for the Terps' first home game in the Big Ten, coming against the conference's marquee program.
At the team's media availabilities on Tuesday, Randy Edsall didn't express interest in treating the game as anything special.
"I know there are people who know and understand the significance of it, but again, this game gives us the opportunity to get us to 5-1 and 2-0 in the league," Edsall said. "We know Ohio State is a very good team and we need to play well. All of the surroundings of the game, we leave that up to our operations people."
His players stayed on a similar message – that it's an important game, but more than that, the next one.
"They put on their pants just like we do," nose tackle Darius Kilgo said. "It's just another team that we're looking forward to playing. It's definitely going to be a great opportunity to play Ohio State because of the history, but we're just looking at it as another game, to get a win."
Said linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil: "It's a big game. They're a great team."
Quarterback situation won't clear up until Saturday
For at least the second time since Sunday, Edsall said Maryland wouldn't have an update on its quarterback situation until the day of the game. C.J. Brown missed the second half against Indiana with a wrist injury, and Caleb Rowe played well in his place, throwing for two touchdowns and almost 200 yards in the final two quarters.
"Those are the expectations we have. I'm very proud of Caleb for staying engaged and being ready when his number was called," Edsall said. "He came in and did the job he was expected to do."
Neither quarterback spoke to the media on Tuesday, but their teammates said they were comfortable with either at the helm. With Maryland's wide range of injuries over the past few seasons, a next-man-up mentality is nothing new.
"I don't know who's starting yet. We haven't made a decision on who's starting. You've got to talk to Edsall about that," left tackle Michael Dunn said. "But we are confident in both our quarterbacks. We feel whichever one's in there, we're going to do our job, we're going to protect him, block for him."
Running back Brandon Ross said he felt bad for Brown, but that Rowe would handle the job well if Edsall taps him for the start.
"That's the thing about Caleb. He's just real composed. It seems like he doesn't feel pressure sometimes, because he'll come into the game, throw a touchdown pass not even really warmed up that much," Ross said. "I think that's mainly because of his character and his personality. He's real easy-going. He knows it's just a game."
Edsall: Terps will be unconventional on special teams
The Terps' special teams unit has been one of the finest in college football. ESPN pegs Andre Powell's group as the third-most efficient in the country by special teams efficiency. Mistakes have been reasonably few and far between, but one came against Indiana when backup quarterback Shane Cockerille, playing on the punt return unit, tried to block an Erich Toth boot and was flagged for roughing. The penalty gave Indiana a first down.
"We're going to utilize everybody that we can to help us win. He's a guy that was redshirted a year ago," Edsall said. "He's got toughness, he loves to play. He just got a little carried away last week when we had a return called, and he learned from that."
Cockerille's mistake didn't ultimately hurt the Terps, because the defense made another stop shortly afterward. And Edsall said the coaches wouldn't be shy about using Cockerille or fellow backup quarterback Perry Hills in special teams situations going forward.
The approach is unconventional, but those running Maryland's special teams have earned some benefit of the doubt.
After Michigan fiasco, Edsall elaborates on Maryland's concussion protocol
Michigan's entire football administration – especially for-the-moment head coach Brady Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon – came under heavy criticism for its handling of quarterback Shane Morris's concussion during a game against Minnesota last weekend.
What happened in Ann Arbor has stirred outrage there and around the college football community. Michigan says "miscommunication" led to a clearly-rattled Morris being sent back in the game after suffering a concussion.
When Edsall got a question about Maryland's concussion protocol, he had clearly prepared. He put on a pair of glasses and pulled a slip of paper from his pocket with Maryland's full set of instructions on dealing with head injuries.
"If we see a student-athlete diagnosed with a concussion, they are going to be withheld from competition or practice. They have to go under a series of tests and everything else," Edsall said.
As Edsall described it, Maryland has a six-stage process for concussed players to clear.
- Stage one: Players recover with no physical activity.
- Stage two: Players return to light aerobic exercise.
- Stage three: Players go through "sport specific non-contact functional activity."
- Stage four: Players go through "supervised, modified, non-contact practice."
- Stage five: Players return to full-contact practices.
- Stage six: Players return to game action.
Edsall said Maryland's medical personnel - not coaching staff - have full authority over when players can return to action.
"The one thing is, when we see somebody that happens to show symptoms or signs of being concussed, as a coach, we can report it to our trainers and then, as a coach, you are out of it," Edsall said. "It's all up to our trainers as they diagnose somebody with a concussion, then they pass those steps. Sometimes, those steps take a while."