Ignore record, and Terps enjoy a great season

Phil Jackman

September 21, 1992|By Phil Jackman

Hopefully, someone at Maryland caught a little bit of the NFL action on television yesterday; specifically, the end of the Green Bay-Cincinnati thriller.

The Packers overcame a six-point deficit in the last minute to post a 24-23 victory, and you would swear the glory days of Vince Lombardi and the power sweep had returned to Lambeau Field and the northern Wisconsin region.

It's almost a certainty the Pack isn't going anywhere, slight improvement over last year's 4-12 record being the forecast. But for more than a few years now, the organization, its players and its fans have lived week to week, game to game. It's easier that way.

Maryland has to adopt the procedure: Forget the postmortems of defeat, enjoy the labors of preparation and the anticipation of the next game and glory in the participation if not the elusive victory.

Cornball stuff, this adoption of the Olympic credo? Not really. Not when laid alongside the alternative, a slow, torturous trek through another two- or three-win season.

To be sure, it was a tough loss the Terrapins absorbed Saturday at West Virginia. That makes it three in a row now, and, in every one, they were right there with game's end just over the next knoll. But for coach Mark Duffner to spend another week spouting, "We have got to learn how to win in the fourth quarter," is senseless.

It may sound misplaced referring to an 0-3 team as being a gang of over-achievers, but that's what the Terps have been to date. Their reasonably talented forces have hung well against tough competition, teams all headed toward winning seasons and a couple of bowls.

To dispel everything that has happened so far as a waste because victory is lacking misses the whole point of fielding a team. Lombardi never placed a premium on winning; he put it where it belongs, on making the effort to win.

So, OK, Maryland had a shot at victory each of the last three weekends, and things didn't quite work out. That's the objective of any team, particularly when cast in the underdog's role, a chance at winning. In that respect, the Terps have been a success. And the coach is always quick to point out how proud he is of the effort being put forth by the team, another plus.

The worst thing that can happen now is for team members to start feeling sorry for themselves, which some have, and to lament their ill fortune and to become embarrassed with their alleged lack of success. It will not help to read, discuss or even think about the fact that it has been a thousand years since Maryland beat Saturday's opponent, Penn State, either.

If form holds, it's very likely the Terps will be home in a couple of weeks facing games against Pitt, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest with an 0-4 record. Those games and subsequent contests against Duke and North Carolina are where success in the form wins reside. But only if the present attitude of the players remains constant, it says here.

It's a test, hanging in week after week, especially when last year's team (and several holdover players) didn't provide much of an example. Maybe a videotape of the end of the Green Bay game and the celebration that followed is in order. It would beat a Jackie Sherrill-type motivational message.

Or perhaps a review of what's happening in Kansas is the way to go. Recall, about the only game the Jayhawks could win over many seasons was their annual tiff with cross-state rival Kansas State. But, lo and behold, with a 40-7 thrashing of Tulsa Saturday, Kansas moved into the national rankings for the first time in 16 years. They're going berserk in Lawrence.

Things can happen quickly in college football. Besides Kansas, take Howard University, for example.The Bison ended a 10-game losing streak nine days ago and Saturday they went out and laid a 75-6 drubbing on Cheyney.

If Maryland is at a crossroads of sorts, what of poor Navy? Soundly beaten (blanked) in their two games to date, the Mids have lost two quarterbacks already and next oppose a Rutgers team that has wracked up 82 points while going 2-1 against Boston College, Pitt and Colgate and has not one but two talented passers.

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