Terps Look To Improve Legacy out West

Maryland will travel to Santa Clara, Calif., for the Foster Farms Bowl against Stanford Dec. 30.

Maryland's recent football history in the San Francisco Bay Area is a mixed one at that.

In 2007, quarterback Chris "Sunshine" Turner, a Southern California native, led the Terps into the Emerald Bowl at San Francisco's AT&T Park against Oregon State, only to score two touchdowns early (one a spectacular 63-yarder to future Oakland Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey) before fizzing out in a 21-14 loss as the Terps finished the disappointing season at 6-7.

Two years later, tripping to No. 12 Cal at ancient Memorial Stadium (built on a fault-line) for an early-season game, despite a heavy fog and earthquake warning announcement in the pre-game, the Terps managed to get in the game. But it was an ugly affair, a 52-13 drubbing with Cal running back Jahvid Best going off, and Turner and Torrey Smith coughing up early fumbles that led to scores.

But along the way the Terps got to see and do a lot of things, like tour Alcatraz Prison, and even an art gallery viewing some work by former Terp/current San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. And this month's trip to the new Foster Farms Bowl (which began as the Emerald Bowl back in the day), hopes to afford Maryland the same opportunities after reaching the post-season for consecutive years under Randy Edsall.

Maryland will be matched against Stanford (7-5), and former Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) star quarterback Kevin Hogan, in the Dec. 30 game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., providing the Terps another month of practices, feel-good recruiting, and a solid cap to their 7-5 inaugural season in the Big Ten.

It is the first meeting between the schools, while the Cardinal finished with a flurry with wins over UCLA and Cal to take second place in the Pac 12 North. Stanford, in addition to the senior Hogan, who carved then-No. 8 UCLA up two weeks ago, rates second in the nation in scoring defense (16.0) and fifth in yards allowed per game (287.4). Maryland has won five of its last 7 bowl games, and is 11-12-2 all-time in the post-season, but will need to continue to get their offense in order for another stiff challenge against a top-ranked defense.

Some last-second, Big Ten maneuvering by the league on Sunday allowed Michigan State to get slotted to the Cotton Bowl, which allowed each Big Ten team to move up a slot, and allow a school like Illinois, which was about to be left out in the cold, to go bowling. For much of Sunday, Dallas or Detroit was the favorite to land Maryland, so Silicon Valley and a matchup with one of the nation's top institutions was a relief to the entire program. Heading into the weekend, there were 10 BIG bowl-eligible teams but only nine slots.

"Well, we are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in the Foster Farms Bowl, and it's an outstanding reward for our players," Randy Edsall said. "And they were very excited tonight when we told them and we just look forward to getting prepared, getting the extra practices in, letting them take their finals, get away for Christmas, and then leave to get out there and partake in all the festivities they have and play an outstanding team in Stanford University."

While the Terps' season ended with a thud in the meltdown loss to Rutgers at home on Senior Day, Edsall and the program have breathed new life of late, not only with the pleasant climes of California to look forward to in the bowl game, but recent success on the recruiting trail this month in the form of both 2015 and 2016 commitments. Edsall looked back on the body of the season in its totality, which included first-ever wins at Penn State and Michigan. Maryland won five of six games on the road this season, including three of four in the Big Ten.

"I thought our kids played hard all year long and gave everything that they had," Edsall said. "And then to be able to have this opportunity extended to us for what we did on the field, it goes to show that the work they put in was worthwhile and they are getting rewarded for it."

Edsall said the Terps will put in the Stanford game plan on Dec. 20. Maryland began practices last Friday, spent the past weekend practicing and hosting recruits, while headed back out on the road last night to recruit some more. Edsall said he will leave today through Wednesday to recruit, head to San Francisco on Thursday for a bowl press conference, and practice (and host recruits again) next weekend.

Then Maryland will break for exams, Dec. 15-19, with optional weight lifting at Gossett. The coaches start a 'dead' period on the 15th for recruiting, so will use the week for game-planning for Stanford. The Terps will begin practicing again on Dec. 20, have players walk through graduation that week, and practice again through the morning of Dec. 23. The players will go home for Christmas before leaving Christmas afternoon for San Francisco and arriving that night.

The Terps open camp in San Francisco on Dec. 26 and practice up until game day on the 30th. Edsall said it worked out well scheduling-wise as far as the players having time to get prepared for and take exams. He said the extra practices afford the young players "a lot of fundamentals and individual work with the young kids here on the 12th, 13th and 14th."

Edsall said, in updating the team, that he has no new injured players out for the game. Last week he said senior linebacker Matt Robinson (shoulder) will play. Meanwhile, he welcomed back two receivers this past weekend to the practice field.

"They have been really good," Edsall said of injured junior receiver Stefon Diggs and suspended freshman receiver Juwann Winfree, who returned Friday to work. "Stefon is out there doing everything. Juwann is out there doing everything. So those guys are excited to be back out there, and have been having fun, and are working hard and making good plays."

While last year the Terps got to play host, basically, in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, this time around Stanford gets to play in its backyard. Edsall said his team has seemed to thrive out in new territory, which included both Michigan's 'Big House' and Penn State's Beaver Stadium, places Maryland had never won before.

"I think we have been pretty good on the road," Edsall said. "It gives us....again, I think the bowl game gives us a chance to go somewhere you haven't been. I don't know how many of our kids have been to the West Coast. Our kids are going to get a chance to be in San Francisco and go to Alcatraz and do some of the things that we are going to be able to do. But you also have to stay focused on the fact you are going to play a football game as well. So I think it is good for our team to get on a plane and go play and go to different part of the country and experience that."

Edsall said he hasn't studied Cardinal quarterback Hogan (a one-time Terps recruit) yet, "but I know he is an outstanding quarterback. And I know they are extremely well-coached and they are an outstanding football team."

Finally, there were all kinds of variations on the theme on the final day of bowl jockeying Sunday, even possibly Florida for the Taxslayer.com Bowl (former Gator), before Maryland's ticket was punched to Northern California.

"In the end it kinda came out the way we wanted it," Edsall said. "This was a bowl that was very high on our list, in terms of when they asked us to give three bowls that we wanted. This was right there at the top of our list."

Meanwhile, the action this week doesn't end there as Terps junior place kicker Brad Craddock, who was in attendance at the Big Ten championship game over the weekend in Indianapolis, is up for the Lou Groza Award this week, and jet-setting about to various award shows all week.

"I would be disappointed if he doesn't win it, to be perfectly honest with you," Edsall said. "I just think that the stats bear out what he did, and to me his stats are the best in the country. He missed one field goal [on the season], and that was a 54-yarder in cold weather."

Edsall added: "I'm sure he is going to make some All-American teams", too. Craddock will be at the Groza Award dinner in Florida, followed by the Home Depot College Awards Show on Thursday, all this week.

As for recruiting, Edsall can't comment specifically on prospects, but added of the big month collecting more pledges:

"I would just say this: I think recruiting here is going very well, not only for 2015 but also for 2016," Edsall said. "And the buzz around here locally is as high as it has ever been since I have been here. We're just trying to continue to build the program and taking ourselves to the highest level we can, and you do that with continuing to acquire good players."

TerrapinTimes Top Stories