The season-opening win against Navy was critical if coach Ralph Friedgen is to get the Terrapins to a bowl game and perhaps save his job. Though it wasn't always pretty, the 17-14 victory over Navy was a badly needed shot of optimism for a program coming off a 2-10 season in 2009.
And while the game could have easily gone the other way, the goal-line stop of Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs in the final minute was, to Friedgen, an example of the feistiness, tenacity and good fortune that have appeared to be absent from the team over the past few seasons.
Now comes another coaching challenge: getting his team back down to earth and ready to take the field again on a short week.
Morgan State comes to town Saturday for its first meeting with the Terrapins. The Baltimore-area school is a FCS foe, but Maryland hasn't exactly rolled over those programs in the past. In 2009, the team needed overtime to beat James Madison at home.
This will be the true home opener for the Terps, with the Navy game taking place at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, home of the NFL's Ravens. Maryland can expect a much happier crowd than many expected when the schedule was announced, and probably a larger one, considering that season-ticket holders can bring a friend to the game for free.
But that optimism can fade quickly if the team struggles against the Bears, so this becomes a challenging week for Friedgen. With only five days in between the emotional victory over Navy and the game against Morgan State, getting his young team to re-focus and show up ready to play with the same intensity this weekend will be another key battle as he looks to turn the program around.
--Navy got inside the Maryland 20-yard line seven times Monday, but the Terrapin defense stopped the Midshipmen from scoring five times. That's more red zone stops than the team recorded in all of 2009, when the Terps gave up points 37 of the 41 times opponents got the ball deep into their territory.
--Backup quarterback Danny O'Brien got into the Navy game for one play -- a fumbled exchange with running back Davin Meggett. However, the coaching staff said the plan has always been to give the redshirt freshman some snaps in relief of Jamarr Robinson, and look for him to get some additional game experience this weekend against Morgan State.
SERIES HISTORY: Maryland and Morgan State have never met.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Maryland only passed the ball six times against Navy, partially by design and partially because Jamarr Robinson looked very uncomfortable in the pocket. He picked up chunks of yardage keeping the ball on the ground, but when he dropped back to pass he was indecisive and inaccurate. That could mean more time for backup Danny O'Brien, though the redshirt freshman's college debut was decidedly unimpressive, as he fumbled an exchange inside the Navy 20-yard line on his only snap of the game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Maryland took the "bend-don't-break philosophy to extremes, allowing Navy inside the 20-yard line constantly but holding the Midshipmen to just 14 points. The much-maligned defensive line came up big when it mattered, as did safety Kenny Tate.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All those doubts about this team finishing, I think we erased those doubts today. It's definitely a relief. Getting this first win was something we had been looking forward to since January, when we reported for winter workouts." -- Maryland center Paul Pinegar to The Washington Post, after the season-opening victory over Navy.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Morgan State at Maryland, Sept. 11 -- It's great that Maryland (1-0) began the season with a big win, but if it hopes to reach a bowl game it can't afford a letdown here. The visitors may be in the Football Championship Subdivision, but the Maryland natives on that roster won't be intimidated by the Terrapins.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Don't rest on your laurels. This is still the team picked to finish in last place in the ACC, so it can't afford to look past anyone. The Terps are more talented and should be able to wear down the visitors, but if the team shows up anything other than completely ready to play, this could get ugly.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Jamarr Robinson -- If Robinson hopes to keep this from becoming a job share at quarterback, he needs to show some confidence in the pocket this week. Maryland should be able to run on Morgan State but would also like to establish some semblance of a passing game before the schedule toughens up the following week against West Virginia. This is a good opportunity for him to get into a rhythm against a lower-division opponent.
S Kenny Tate -- It raised a lot of eyebrows when Tate, who earned accolades as a local who was considered one of the top high school wideouts when he signed with the Terps, was converted to defense soon after he arrived on campus. But the junior looked like a future pro against Navy, earning honors as the ACC defensive back of the week after forcing a pair of fumbles against the Midshipmen. More importantly, he had 12 tackles, including the goal-line stop of Ricky Dobbs that clinched the Maryland victory. It was a breakout performance, and the following weeks could be equally special if this was a sign of things to come.
DT Joe Vellano -- The redshirt sophomore was one of the stars of the spring for Maryland, and that carried through to the start of the season. He had 10 tackles and two sacks against the Midshipmen, and should be able to have another strong game this weekend against Morgan State.
--Travis Balz took on the field goal kicking duties against Navy, with Nick Ferrara absent with a groin injury. Balz connected on his only attempt, which proved to be the game-winning 24-yarder. He may get another chance to pull double duty this week, unless Ferrara looks a lot better in practice over the days leading up to the game.
--QB Jamarr Robinson threw only five passes against Navy, completing 2 for 11 yards and tossing one interception. The coaching staff said that it was confident in him and that he threw the ball well in practice, but he looked less than confident when he dropped back against Navy. Though he helped win the game with his feet, for the Terrapins to have a breakout season he'll have to do it with his arm as well.
--Converted TE Drew Gloster made an instant impact in his first season on the defensive line, finishing the Navy game with a career-high seven tackles.