CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA — CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Maryland coach Mark Duffner has made just about all the right moves. He uses the run-and-shoot offense and plays an attacking defense, both to get the fans excited. His coaching staff stayed with the players in a dorm during preseason camp, all in the sake of togetherness.
He has gotten the administration to purchase new blocking sleds and uniforms. And attitude? Oh, do the Terps have a new one? Seniors wear gold pins with the word "attitude" written on it. They have a constitution that essentially says, 'Don't worry, be happy,' and a coach who is Mr. Rah-Rah.
But here's the bottom line: The Terps have to win some football games.
Tonight at 7, Maryland gets its first chance, opening the season against Virginia.
"That enthusiasm stuff is good until the first time some player stretches you out from a helmet under the chin," said Mike Jarmolowich, Maryland's senior starting inside linebacker. "It can only take you so far. Sooner or later, it gets down to which team has the better players.
"I'm more concerned with what kind of Saturday coach Mark Duffner is, and how his assistants work together on game day," Jarmolowich added.
"I'm also interested in seeing how he handles losing. He didn't lose much at Holy Cross."
Maryland might lose more games in one season than Duffner lost during his career at Holy Cross. Duffner, 39, from Annandale, Va., had a 60-5-1 record in six years at Holy Cross. He was selected Division I-AA Coach of the Year twice with the Crusaders, his forte being defense and the run-and-shoot serving as his calling card.
But Duffner is now at Maryland, where the program has had only one winning season in the past six years. Last year, the Terps were 2-9, their worst record since 1971. The season was so bad that coach Joe Krivak was forced to resign in December, and Duffner was hired as his replacement in January.
"I'm being an optimist about the start of the season," Duffner said. "We have asked a lot from the players in the past two to three weeks, and we're pleased with the effort.
"As the lights are about to shine and the curtain to go up, it becomes an exciting time," he said. "The coaching staff is anxious to get going, and it's getting close to show time. This is what we work all year long for -- 11 opportunities. This is the first of 11."
Said sophomore offensive tackle Steve Ingram: "I think it is important for us to play well and to play well early. The first three games -- Virginia, North Carolina State and West Virginia -- are extremely important for us as far as momentum is concerned."
The game will mark the debut of Duffner's run-and-shoot offense, a system that he was extremely successful with at Holy Cross. The Crusaders were ranked in the top 15 nationally in passing four times.
The last time Virginia coach George Welsh played against such an offense was against South Carolina in 1987, and South Carolina scored 58 points.
Welsh doesn't know exactly what to expect from Maryland.
"We're basing it all on what he did at Holy Cross," Welsh said. "If we're right more than half the time, I'll be surprised."
It's possible Maryland may pass 40 to 50 times. Then again, the Terps may want to establish more of a balanced attack, especially with the return of running back Mark Mason, their leading rusher last year.
"My inclination," Welsh said, "is to think that because Maryland has a really good back in Mason that they're going to try to get him the ball . . . so maybe they won't call that many passes."
The only clue Duffner has given about his offense is that John Kaleo, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior from Bowie, will start at quarterback.
Defensively, Maryland will have to stop Virginia's option offense. The feature back in the offense is Terry Kirby, who needs a little more than 1,000 yards to become Virginia's all-time leading rusher.