What happened to Maryland inside linebacker Mike Jarmolowich against West Virginia two weeks ago left a scar that isn't visible. The 37-7 whipping by the Mountaineers was crushing emotionally. That's why tomorrow's 1:30 game at undefeated and 17th-ranked Pittsburgh (WBAL-AM 1090) is so important.
The Terps need a victory, but the team's need isn't any greater than Mike Jarmolowich's personal need for redemption.
"I've read that embarrassment is the greatest motivator and I hope that's true," said Jarmolowich, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior. "I've been physically sick for two weeks. . . I told my dad on the phone last night that I've been able to eat very little and he agreed that game is eating me up."
Mike Jarmolowich is the second-leading tackler in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In Maryland's first two games this season, he was the ACC's Defensive Player of the Week. With 37 tackles and three fumble recoveries, he is Maryland's team leader. But none of that counts for very much, Jarmolowich said, when you play "the worst game of your life."
"My dad told me I got beat, that they owned me," Jarmolowich said, his voice catching. "He told me West Virginia basically kicked my ass. He even told Coach Foussekis [linebacker coach George Foussekis] that.
"You know, my dad is good guy, a great guy. He'll tell you the truth. Which is good. I'd rather hear the truth instead of a lie that might let me get false images and cause me to think I played well. I didn't play well.
"I've got to prove to myself that I can play football the way I did the first two weeks. I've got to prove that against Pitt."
Foussekis, who might be worried about tomorrow's game, isn't worried about Jarmolowich.
"That is one tough kid," Foussekis said. "I've never doubted that and you can win football games with toughness -- and by making fewer mistakes. He didn't play well against West Virginia, and it upset him. But he'll learn from it."
Jarmolowich is a speech communications major from Union, N.J. His pleasant manner and ready smile disguise the turmoil in his gut.
"We've got a great schedule and if we beat Pitt, everyone will be back on our bandwagon," he said.
He knows the Terps are only three games into the season. But that doesn't make the 1-2 record any easier to take.
"It gets so frustrating out there, when you don't make a play," he said. "You start asking yourself, 'What's going on? What's going wrong with me today?' You see a play coming and for some reason, it doesn't happen for you and you start thinking about it and you lose your concentration."
It is a new and bothersome revelation for Jarmolowich, who has always looked at football as an exercise in fun and freedom. He likes to be reckless on the field.
But he has learned that at his size, he can't just step up "to bigger guys and slap them in the mouth or run over them." Jarmolowich's tactic is to go around. It is a tactic that produced 151 tackles in two years without a starting role. As a starter this season, it continued working fine, until the West Virginia game.
"When I tried to go around the big 365-pound guy [senior offensive tackle John Ray] in front of me, there was a wall waiting to stop me," he said.
Tomorrow, Pitt no doubt will have someone on Jarmolowich. But this time, he said things are going to be different.
"Against West Virginia, we didn't come to play," Jarmolowich said. "But that won't happen again. We've had two weeks off. We've looked at a lot of film. We've talked a few things over. And everyone has something to prove, especially me. I've got to make up for the worst game of my life."