After two consecutive losses, including a 59-0 defeat at the hands of No. 12 Penn State last Friday, Maryland football players knew something needed to change.
Linebacker Keandre Jones, a graduate transfer from Ohio State, held a players-only meeting this past Sunday to get the entire group back on track.
“I called it up because I feel like we can do way more and way better than what we were doing these last past two weeks,” safety Antoine Brooks Jr. recalled Jones telling everyone.
Players said Jones also stressed that there was a long season ahead, that the two losses wouldn’t define the rest of the year.
Sophomore linebacker Chance Campbell said the team hadn’t held such meetings at any point this season or in years prior, and it was somewhat of an “open forum” that allowed players to come together as a whole and figure out what led to the two losses.
“[It’s] pretty cool that we have leaders on the team comfortable opening up and hearing other guys’ opinions,” Campbell said. “And more importantly, once we weighed maybe some concerns or things that weren’t right, just figuring out how do we fix them and being more solution-oriented than problem oriented.”
Maryland started this season off with a bang, setting numerous records with a 79-0 win over Howard, followed by a 63-20 takedown of then-No. 21 Syracuse. Against Temple and No. 12 Penn State however, the group looked like a completely different team. Getting back to how they looked in those first two weeks was a big point for players in the meeting.
And after such discussions, the Terps came to the realization that their habits and behaviors — two concepts that head coach Mike Locksley stresses frequently — weren’t where they needed to be.
”The preparation is there, it’s just the energy has to be within the players,” tight end Tyler Mabry said. “You’ve got to be a player-led team like coach Locksley says, because the coaches put us in the best position possible, it’s just players have to make it happen.”
Mabry also said that players stressed the importance of keeping the spark going on the sidelines and not pointing fingers at each other, but rather holding each person accountable, both in practice and in games.
He and other players also mentioned the desire to play more disciplined and not hurt themselves with bad penalties or missed tackles — two things that plagued them against the Nittany Lions.
“We are going to do better this week of practice,” Brooks said. “So we’re going to try to work hard every day, try to get our good habits back and try and make everything get back.”
The push of leadership and unity exemplified by the meeting comes at a much-needed time for Maryland. With two losses, the next four games become even more crucial for bowl eligibility. The Terps face Rutgers, Purdue, Indiana and Minnesota in the upcoming span, before they enter an extremely tough slate of No. 19 Michigan, No. 5 Ohio State, Nebraska and No. 25 Michigan State to end the season.
“It’s not what we wanted and everybody has a bad taste in their mouth. But the best thing about that is that we have another opportunity this weekend to cleanse that,” Campbell said. “Guys were pretty, pretty upset about the loss. I think they were ready to turn that around. I think the players meeting helped refocus that and maybe structure that. … Guys are ready to go.”