Even coach Ralph Friedgen was surprised by Maryland's poor effort in its 22-0 defeat to Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic last week.
"I wasn't anticipating us playing that poorly," Friedgen said Wednesday.
"I thought from what I've seen in practice, we were progressing quite well. Notre Dame did do a couple things that we didn't anticipate. I am sure Akron will to. It's kind of like once things started going bad, we couldn't get it going."
Maryland never was able to get its offense in gear and looked nothing like the team that went 10-2 last season and played in the Orange Bowl, collecting just 133 yards overall compared to 356 for Notre Dame. The Terps are hoping to rebound Saturday against Akron (0-1) before playing host to fifth-ranked Florida State (2-0) next week.
Maryland enters the season as the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion.
"We were disappointed with our showing," Friedgen said of the Irish game. "Offensively, we didn't feel like we played to our capabilities. Defensively, we felt we played very hard but we were on the field too much. We were hoping to get better. We have a very young team."
The Terps played without star running back Bruce Perry, who has been sidelined with a groin injury but is recovering at an accelerated pace, Friedgen said. Maryland gained 16 yards on the ground on 21 carries. Friedgen also kept his choice at quarterback a secret until just before game time and went with Scott McBrien, a transfer from West Virginia. Chris Kelley won the job in a close competition during spring drills, but spent the summer recovering from a torn ACL.
McBrien completed just 9-of-23 passes for 84 yards and was picked off twice. Kelley played briefly in the second half and was 3-of-9 33 yards. Friedgen said he plans to simplify the offense against the Zips. The Terps were ranked No. 21 going into the game but fell out of the Top 25.
"Scott made a lot of mistakes," Friedgen said. "(That's) not unusual for a quarterback in our system. We ask him to do a whole lot. Same thing with Chris. They made some mistakes. They didn't get help. We had five dropped passes, and you never know what that does to a quarterback. Might help create some momentum. We are going to cut things back, try to simplify. We still have a lot of belief in both of our quarterbacks. I think they have some real talent. Once they understand things a little bit better, I am sure they are going to play very well."
The game spoke for itself. Maryland couldn't run. Maryland couldn't pass. The qualities present in most games of Friedgen's tenure - poise and discipline - were scarce.
Lamar Bryant told the Baltimore Sun the problem wasn't so much the system as the experience of key components within it, i.e. McBrien. The Terps feature a 1,000-page playbook.
"We had a lot of veterans last year who had played, not necessarily in this system, but in college football as a whole," Bryant said. "These people understood what it took to win a game in college football and how to perform in pressure situations." Added Kelley: "You've just got to take the heat. I mean, we deserve it. If we'd played good, we wouldn't have gotten any. We just have to get the job done."
Friedgen said the Terps simply must go back to work.
"We are in an unusual situation," he said.
"The rest of the team has been in this offense a whole year and they're advancing. All though our receivers made a lot of mistakes in the game also. And some of the kids who have played before, which that was surprising to me because we've been practicing a lot better than that. But you never know what's going to happen in the first game of the year, especially in a game of the magnitude we were playing.
"Some of our young receivers just kind of got stage fright, if you want to know the truth. They have practiced better. I can only go on what I see every day in practice and maybe we were trying to move too fast. We're were trying to get more of our offense in than we even had last year and I think it was probably overwhelming to our quarterbacks and the coaches. What I want to do is simplify and execute.
"We didn't play our best and we didn't execute, and that was a lot of reason why we were been unsuccessful. So, what I want to do is to get us to where we doing our best and then let's see what happens."