Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Terps are Too Talented for Ralph Friegen

In 2007, The Maryland Terrapins celebrated wins over #8 Boston College and #10 Rutgers. They finished 6-7. This year they have beaten ranked teams in Cal and Clemson. They have also lost to Middle Tennessee State and Virginia. After each one of these wins we cheered and clamored that perhaps now Maryland football will take the leap to a top flight team in the ACC rather than an occasional bowl team that is well below the upper echelon of the conference. After each one of those inexplicable losses we scratched our heads and wondered how a team could do so poorly after doing so well.

What team is this? Is it the one that was hammered by the Cavaliers on Saturday or the team that upset Clemson in comeback fashion? Yes. The essence of this team is in its inconsistency. Maryland is a team capable, on any given day, of beating any team in the ACC when they are prepared. This team is also capable of losing to the worst teams in the country. Who hold the responsibility for this? Is this a poor squad that has gotten lucky a few times or a good team that simply lays an egg?

I have to side with the latter. If the Terps were a bad team the could not have played the way they did against Clemson or Cal, or even Boston College or Rutgers last year. The team simply does not get up for the small games like they do for the big games, and the responsibility for this failure falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Ralph Friegen. I disagree with Falco’s analysis that Friegen has done a great job- he has put an excellent team together, but has not taken the team where it belongs. I do not care how many wins you put together against ranked teams, how many excuses you give the College Park faithful to rush the field. He has failed to prepare his team or get them emotionally ready for their games; it is as though the players themselves have to motivate themselves and if a 1-4 team is on the schedule it is up to the coaches to make the players take it seriously.

How long have we waited for Ralph to turn this team into an upper-echelon ACC club? These wins against ranked teams are a mirage, a distraction from the reality that Maryland football is not where it could be right now. The fans have not helped by being so easily contented by the occasional 8-4 finish in contrast to the perennial also-ran status in conference play. This team could be so much further along than it is, and after 7 years it is not the team it was when Friegen took over- Friegen delivered 10+ win seasons in his first 3 years at Maryland, the team was unable to capitalize and find consistent success since.

It is not a matter to me of how many wins he has had, but where the wins have come. Came in with a bang and his teams have petered out since. Does anyone see a 10 win season in the next two years? Why has Maryland gotten worse in the years since Friegen established himself in his first three years? For years we have waited to see Maryland become a regional power, only to see the fan base contented by mediocrity. Look no further than the basketball team- winning the National Title in 2002 and since then have been lackluster, failing to make the NCAA tournament 3 out of the last 4 years. Football has followed a similar pattern since the 2003 Gator Bowl.

Sometimes coaches simply reach their peak and cannot progress any more with a certain team- they need someone new to get the team over the hump. I do not want to appear as though I am rushing to judgment after a devastating loss. This football team has been in limbo for several years now, unable to rebound from big wins to get the small wins. They upset another team and are promptly upset by someone else. This team won’t win the ACC until the coaching staff is capable of motivating the team properly and preparing for all opponents equally. It is time to stop being content with mediocrity. The Maryland Terrapins are too talented for that.

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