Terrapins to Honor Seniors Saturday

The Terps will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday in their last home game of the season.

On Saturday, the Maryland will face a tough challenge against the ACC's top team, the Florida State Seminoles, in a must-win game if they want to have a chance of making it to the postseason. With their season on the line, the Terps have the extra incentive of winning their last home game of the season for the 17 seniors on the team who will be playing in Byrd Stadium for the last time.

It's always a bitter-sweet day when that happens, but you know something that you're very proud of those young men with what they've contributed and what they've learned here and then as they end up going on to future endeavors,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said in his press conference Tuesday.

“It's going to be crazy, man,” senior defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. “Every year we come in and we see all the seniors lined up ready to go out and being like, 'I can't believe it's my last time playing at Byrd, it's crazy.' And now, that's me in that line. It's definitely different. I'll miss it. There's a lot of good memories there and hopefully I can leave another this week.”

“It's tough going into their last game,” freshman quarterback Shawn Petty said. “Some of them, you never know what they're doing after they're here. They're all great leaders and they're all good people. I've become really close with them, especially over the last few weeks and it's sad that it's going to be their last home game.”

Even with the pre-game celebration scheduled for the seniors and the hype over this being the last home game for the senior class, the players are still focusing on getting a win over the nationally-ranked Seminoles and taking one step closer to being bowl eligible.

“It's going to be my last time in Byrd, but I can't let that bother me too much,” senior offensive lineman Justin Gilbert said. “Just got to get my head in the game this week, keep up with the game plan and make sure I have a good game. I can worry about that afterward.”

“We're on a four-game skid,” Francis said. “We're playing the number one team in the ACC. You keep that one game at a time mentality. This game could change our season, it could change our careers. It could change how people view us for the rest of our lives as this class of seniors. Nobody in this class has ever beat Florida State and nobody in this class ever got a tombstone, so it's time to probably change that.”

The season has not been ideal for this senior class. After suffering through a 2-10 disappointment in 2011, the Terps put together a solid first half of the season, opening 4-2 and 2-0 in the Atlantic Coastal Conference. But injuries struck the team in the second half and the Terps have dropped the last four games and are in danger of falling out of postseason contention.

“The seniors this year have been very good,” Edsall said. “I think that these guys have really done a good job of heeding the message of what this program is about and what we want to do here. They might not get all of the wins that they would have liked, but the one thing that I think they should feel good about and be proud of is that they have really laid the foundation for what this program is going to be about going forward.”

Building the foundation for the future of Maryland football is no consolation prize for the seniors who have had their share of heartbreak over the years. The seniors all spoke highly of the future of the program under Edsall and had nothing but good words for many of the younger players at their position who they have been mentoring.

“You definitely do see a turnaround with this team this year than last year,” Gilbert said. “Of course, we didn't have the situation we wanted, but we're a lot better team than our record reflects with our injuries and stuff like that. It's been tough, but we've definitely seen the foundation being set. There's guys in here who love playing football and are doing the right thing that coach Edsall wants and he's kind of turned the program around, he's got guys on the right track and I'm really excited to see these guys further down the road.”

“I think they're going to have a lot of success here in the future,” Francis said. “It's sad I'm not going to be a part of it.”

The Terps would obviously rather celebrate a win at the end of Saturday, but win or lose, the game will be an emotional one for all, especially for Edsall.

It is always a sad day as a coach when you have that last home game,” Edsall said. “It gets emotional because of the attachment and ties that you build with these young men. The wins are always great, but when you can help make these young men better people, better students, and better athletes, and then to see them go out and play and get their degree and know that you played a role in that development and maturation, that is what it is all about. That is why senior day is a little emotional. You feel for these guys who have spent so much. Anybody that is out there is a competitor, but the end is growing near. Hopefully we can fill the place up and get a lot of fans out there because these kids have given everything that they have to make the program better and represent this institution in the best way possible on and off the field.

The 17 senior Maryland Terrapins are WR Kerry Boykins, TE Devonte Campbell, DB Clarence Claiborne, WR Kevin Dorsey, LB Darin Drakeford, K Nick Ferrara, DL A.J. Francis, DB Eric Franklin, OL Bennett Fulper, TE Matt Furstenburg, OL Justin Gilbert, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, FB Jeff Hernandez, RB Kwabena Ofori, TE Ryan Schlothauer, LB Kenneth Tate and DL Joe Vellano.

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