COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A potentially redemptive season for Maryland took a bizarre turn and ended up being a disappointing wreck.
After going 2-10 in Randy Edsall's first year as head coach, the Terrapins were confident that 2012 would be as different. It turned out to be a season unlike any other -- and not in a good way.
On their way to a 4-8 finish, the Terrapins lost 10 players to season-ending injuries. The casualties included four quarterbacks, their leading rusher and leading tackler. It made things exceedingly difficult for Edsall, who is a Susquehannock High School graduate.
"That's life and the game of football," senior wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said. "You're going to have times when things are going your way, and things aren't going your way. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened too many times in history when you have one quarterback going down after another. But at the same time, it's a possibility. And it did happen to us this year."
There were several positives, such as the 4-2 start and the spectacular play of freshman Stefon Diggs. All four injured quarterbacks are expected to return in 2013, Maryland's final season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terps have announced they will join the Big Ten in 2014.
This year, however, was all about handling adversity.
The trouble began when starting quarterback C.J. Brown tore his ACL in summer practice. Despite the setback, the Terrapins won four of their first six games with true freshman Perry Hills calling the signals. At that point, Maryland needed to win only twice over the final six weeks to become bowl eligible.
Then came a home matchup against North Carolina State.
Hills tore his ACL when struck in the back with an illegal block during an interception return. Backup Devin Burns broke his foot in the same game, but backup Caleb Rowe covered 60 yards in a frantic drive during the final minute before a 33-yard field goal try hit the left upright with two seconds remaining in a 20-18 defeat.
Rowe tore his ACL the following week in a loss at Boston College, and Maryland was sunk. And, as if losing four quarterbacks wasn't bad enough, the Terrapins also closed out the season without talented linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield and running back Wes Brown. Hartsfield tore his ACL on Nov. 3 against Georgia Tech and Brown was injured in the same game.
Not surprisingly, Maryland dropped its final six games.
Fortunately, there is hope for 2013. The Terrapins lose only 17 seniors, and with all four quarterbacks back, linebacker Shawn Petty -- who started at quarterback in the last four games -- can go back to making tackles instead of being tackled.
Edsall remains confident that his plan to bring Maryland football back into prominence is still on course.
"All of the things that we want to do as a program are growing and getting better," he said. "I am thankful for the kids we were able to redshirt. I just know that everything is headed in the right direction. The players know it, the coaches know it, the recruits know it, and it is just unfortunate that we were beset with the injuries. But the will and the spirit of these guys never wavered. They continue to do all of the things that are expected of them to be outstanding players in an outstanding program."
Seniors such as Hartsfield, defensive end A.J. Francis, tight end Matt Furstenburg and offensive tackle Justin Gilbert will be missed. But their contributions and leadership put an indelible stamp on the program.
"The seniors this year have been very good," Edsall said. "I think that these guys have really done a good job of heeding the message of what this program is about and what we want to do here. They might not get all of the wins that they would have liked, but the one thing that I think they should feel good about and be proud of is that they have really laid the foundation for what this program is going to be about going forward."
Gilbert said, "Coach Edsall definitely has things on the right track. We have a lot of skilled guys that are coming back. We have guys coming back from injuries. We are losing some guys in key positions, but we have guys who can back them up. I'm really excited to see these guys next year. It's going to be a very good football program."
Edsall hopes his quarterback in 2013 will be able to hand off to Brown and throw to Diggs, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns led the team with 54 catches for 848 yards and six scores despite missing a game with a foot injury. Diggs was one of 15 freshmen to suit up and among 18 players who made their first career starts.
A season that began with started so well ended with a 45-38 loss to North Carolina on Saturday.
"It is disappointing, especially when we were so close, sitting there at 4-2 and a couple inches away from getting the fifth win," Edsall said. "I feel for the kids."