Despite the uncertainty of head coach Joe Krivak's status for next season, Maryland players said they are completely focused for today's 1:30 p.m. game with No. 9-ranked Penn State at Memorial Stadium.
Maryland (2-6) has lost six of its past seven games, losing big to Georgia Tech, West Virginia and North Carolina. Krivak was heavily criticized after last week's uninspired 24-0 loss to the Tar Heels.
On Monday, Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger expressed disappointment with the record, and said he won't comment on Krivak's status until they can meet and evaluate the program after the season.
On Tuesday, perhaps at a low moment after learning three of his starters were declared academically ineligible, Krivak added to the uncertainty by saying it would be "ludicrous" to say he hasn't thought about quitting because of the losing season in which he also has lost four starters because of injuries.
Krivak, 56, is in the first year of a four-year guaranteed contract worth $94,000 per season. He was re-signed last November after Maryland finished with a 6-5 record and gained a berth in the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl. It was Maryland's first bowl appearance and winning season since 1985.
Krivak has a 20-31-2 record in five years at Maryland.
"If this was any other week, it might be a distraction," said Dan DeArmas, Maryland's senior place-kicker. "But this is Penn State week. Don't ask me about what transformation takes place, but we're always ready to play Penn State."
Terps junior H-back Frank Wycheck said: "Will Coach Krivak come back or won't he come back? This seems to happen every year, and I think we're a little tired of it. I guess when things go badly, everyone points to the coach. This happens at every major college, but more here at Maryland because we're always close to .500.
"But our main focus is on Penn State. It has to be. We can't control the situation with Coach Krivak. You know, every kid here grew up watching Penn State on television. Every kid's goal is to either play for them, or play against them."
Maryland senior quarterback Jim Sandwisch agreed with Wycheck, and also supported Krivak.
"I've heard things like they're going to get rid of the assistant coaches, or Coach Krivak," said Sandwisch. "But that's really not the answer. We're still the guys who have to play the game and make the plays. We just haven't made the plays. But today, we have a chance to bring some pride back to the Maryland football team."
Maryland is a 26-point underdog to Penn State (7-2), which is still in the hunt for a major bowl bid.
All week long, Penn State coach Joe Paterno has cautioned his team against the Terps because seven of the last eight Penn State-Maryland games have been decided by eight points or fewer. Maryland hasn't beaten Penn State since 1961, although the Terps managed a 13-13 tie in 1989 at Memorial Stadium.
"When you look at a defense that can give you problems if you're not organized and their tradition of playing us tough, it's going to be a tough football game," Paterno said.
It doesn't appear that way. Penn State is loaded with three outstanding tailbacks in Richie Anderson (83 carries, 380 yards), Gerry Collins (85, 334), Shelly Hammonds (54, 322) and big fullback Sam Gash (65, 307).
Nittany Lions senior quarterback Tony Sacca has had success passing, completing 131 of 227 passes for 1,977 yards and 17 touchdowns, most of those to wide receiver Terry Smith, who has 45 receptions for 647 yards and eight touchdowns.
Defensively, Penn State is led by linebackers Reggie Givens (28 tackles), Brett Wright (21), Keith Goganious (38) and Rich McKenzie (33). The Nittany Lions are allowing only 267.3 yards and 14.1 points per game.
Maryland is more concerned with Penn State's defensive line.
"The keys are controlling the play up front, and giving me some time to throw," said Sandwisch, whose team has the worst offense (283.3 yards per game) in the ACC.
Maryland does have three things working in its favor. The Terps traditionally have played Penn State close, and the Terps play well at Memorial Stadium. Maryland also will try to catch Penn State, which did not play last week, looking ahead to next Saturday's game against No. 5 Notre Dame.
"The kids know what is at stake," Krivak said. "We're going to need a great effort and I have no doubt we'll get the effort. But it's critical for us to have some early success with that effort."
About 1,000 tickets remain for today's 1:30 p.m. game between Maryland and No. 9 Penn State at Memorial Stadium.
They can be purchased at ticket window E-1, beginning at 10 a.m.