It’s been a long time since Nov. 27, 2010, when Maryland football beat NC State at home by a touchdown. Six full seasons came and went before the Terps would beat a ranked football team again.
Seventeen games. That’s a season and a half of not having quite enough. And while Maryland still went bowling a couple times and won plenty of games it wasn’t favored to in that span, it was never built to challenge the best of the best. In five Randy Edsall years and a DJ Durkin season, the Terps didn’t beat anyone with a number next to its name.
Not until Saturday. Maryland opened its season by upsetting No. 23 Texas on the road as a 19-point underdog. The Terps scored 51 points, the most they’ve ever put up against a ranked opponent. They rushed for 165 more yards than the Longhorns. They scored 27 unanswered points in the first half to silence the crowd, and when Texas slashed the lead to three by the end of the third quarter, Maryland scored another 14 to seal the deal.
It’s Week 1, rankings are more speculation than anything, and there’s a valid argument in hindsight that Texas shouldn’t have been ranked at all. The Longhorns went 5-7 in 2016 and changed coaches in the offseason. But Texas finished 34th nationally in S&P+ last year (Maryland was 87th), and brought back most of its weapons, including 10 defensive starters.
And Maryland still strutted out of Austin with 51 points on the scoreboard.
Previous versions of Maryland simply didn’t win games that unfolded the way Saturday’s did. They wouldn’t have responded to a pick-six by scoring 27 unanswered points. They wouldn’t have thwarted Texas’ second-half rally. Their true freshman backup quarterback, thrown directly a three-point game in the second half, would have been overwhelmed by the moment.
Over the past couple years, it seemed clear that Maryland would eventually become a team that won games like this. There was a vibe that the Terps were determined to make it happen. Durkin’s players believe in him, and in themselves. But they still needed something to point to as an example of their renaissance.
Now they have that.
I did a handful of interviews with Texas blogs, podcasts and radio shows this week. I warned them all that Maryland was on its way to some level of prominence and wouldn’t be a team to take lightly. But even I didn’t think this would be the breakthrough, and got called out for it.
It’s tough to say what this win means for the rest of the season. The schedule doesn’t get much easier from here, and Maryland faces supersized injury question marks. Quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, BUCK Jesse Aniebonam and cornerback Antwaine Richardson all left Saturday’s game with injuries and didn’t return (Richardson was carted off and sent to the hospital, but he’s in good spirits now).
Maryland will move on from this game, because that’s what football teams do. But Saturday’s stunner won’t be forgotten anytime soon. The Terps are climbing, and now the whole country has taken notice.