From 2001-2003, Maryland football won a combined 31 games and an ACC championship and made three significant bowl game appearances with two wins. Since then, well, let’s just say things haven’t been particularly similar.
In a very small sample size in 2020, the combination of head coach Michael Locksley and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa rightfully gave Maryland fans reason for hope. But we’ll have to understand if some fans are a little reluctant to embrace that hope until they see more. Here are The 15 “Maryland Football False Hopes” (in chronological order) since that 2003 season.
1. Win Against No. 5 Florida State (2004)
The 2004 season got off to a fairly decent 3-1 start with the only loss coming by a field goal to a very good West Virginia team. But after three straight losses, the Terps were in serious danger of missing a bowl game altogether for the first time in four years. Joel Statham threw for 333 yards as Maryland took down the fifth-ranked Seminoles to get back to .500 … only for the Terps to lose to Virginia and Virginia Tech in the next two weeks by a combined score of 71-6 to be eliminated from postseason contention.
2. Josh Portis Transfers To Maryland (2006)
Before Tagovailoa, there was another SEC transfer who Maryland fans believed could be an answer at quarterback. Portis was stuck behind Chris Leak at Florida, with a freshman named Tim Tebow expected to get snaps in the fall given his unique skill set. With a famous cousin (former Washington running back Clinton Portis) in the area, there was a lot of excitement about what Josh Portis could do for the Terps. It never panned out and Portis ended up transferring again, this time to California … University of Pennsylvania.
3. Antonio Logan-El’s Announcement (2006)
The four-star Forestville offensive lineman was considered such a sure thing to commit to Maryland that Terps fans — including Gloria Friedgen (Ralph’s wife) — packed Baltimore’s ESPN Zone for his nationally-televised announcement. He chose Penn State instead. It was almost as much of a debacle as Logan-El’s Penn State career proved to be.
4. The 2010 Regular Season
After going 2-10 in 2009, Maryland managed to right the ship with a solid 8-4 season, including a late-season win against a ranked NC State team. The Terps were headed to a bowl game for the fourth time in five years, and with a popular head coach, the program appeared to at least be stable. But then athletic director Kevin Anderson wanted to take the program from “good to great,” so he fired Friedgen before the team’s Military Bowl appearance. Spoiler: things did not end up great.
5. Mike Leach Interviews For The Vacancy (2010)
So with Friedgen gone, Maryland fans coalesced around the eccentric former Texas Tech coach as a replacement. Leach had two interviews for the job and was reportedly reaching out to recruits about joining him in College Park. But Maryland apparently didn’t think the interviews went quite as well as Leach did — a member of the search committee once described Leach’s performance as “bizarre” in an interview with AL.com — and the Terps went with Randy Edsall instead.
6. A Thrilling Season-Opening Win Against Miami (2011)
Whatever your opinion of the Edsall hire might have been, his tenure couldn’t have started in a better way. With a national TV Labor Day audience, the Terps debuted their “Maryland Pride” jerseys that featured splashes of the state flag and held off Miami to set the tone for the year. But they would win just one more game the rest of the season.
7. Danny O’Brien’s First “Season And A Game” (2010-2011)
In his first season, the quarterback was ACC Rookie of the Year. In that Miami game, he threw for 348 yards. The Terps appeared to have their first superstar quarterback in a decade. Instead, O’Brien struggled, was benched before the end of the year and transferred to Wisconsin for the 2012 campaign.
8. Stefon Diggs Commits (2012)
“Really, Glenn? Diggs was one of the best players in recent Maryland memory. Why would he make your list of false hopes?” Well, because even when things went well … they didn’t go well. Landing Diggs was viewed as a moment that might completely shift how area recruits viewed Maryland. But for as good as Diggs was when he was healthy, he couldn’t singularly change the Terrapins’ fortunes. In fact, their injury issues at quarterback were so significant during Diggs’ freshman season that they had to turn to a true freshman … linebacker (Shawn Petty). Maryland won no more than seven games in a season with the future All-Pro receiver.
9. Wins At Penn State And Michigan (2014)
Some casual Maryland fans got a bit too excited about the 2014 Terrapins thanks to road wins at both Penn State AND Michigan in November. Which on paper sounds marvelous until you remember that those programs were so down that season that they both finished UNDER .500 in conference play. In the six seasons that followed, Maryland has one total win against the two division rivals.
10. Dwayne Haskins Commits (2015)
Not only did the four-star Bullis School quarterback commit to Maryland, he committed to helping land other recruits and immediately started reaching out to them. And then when Maryland passed on hiring Locksley to replace Edsall, Haskins decided to go to Ohio State instead and that worked out OK for him.
11. Kasim Hill Commits (2016)
In the aftermath of the Haskins miss, Maryland still needed a quarterback. Enter the former four-star St. John’s (D.C.) and Gilman signal-caller. Hill came to Maryland with lofty expectations but struggled to make an impact and ultimately transferred to Tennessee and then Rhode Island.
12. Beating Texas To Open The Season (2017)
Both Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome played in the Terrapins’ 51-41 stunner in Austin, with future NFL players D.J. Moore and Ty Johnson posting more than 100 yards receiving and rushing, respectively. (Fellow future NFL Draft pick Jake Funk added a touchdown). It looked to be a sign of a potentially explosive offense. But the Terps would go on to lose eight games, scoring 14 points or fewer in six of their losses.
13. Friedgen Finally Returns (2018)
After being so unfairly dismissed, Friedgen understandably held on to an amount of bitterness for his alma mater. The frost finally thawed with a 2018 visit to a Maryland coaches’ clinic, a story that was particularly special because Friedgen said Maryland’s then-football coach (DJ Durkin) was the one who fostered a relationship and invited him. It made Durkin immediately more popular with Maryland fans and was a truly feel-good story … for all of a couple of months.
The death of Jordan McNair and the responsibility of the coaches and staff at the school ended any positive feelings toward Durkin and ultimately cost him his job.
14. Beating Texas To Open The Season … Again (2018)
It seemed unfathomable that Texas would lose to Maryland once. It seemed damn near impossible that it might happen again. But Jeshaun Jones had rushing, receiving and passing touchdowns on his first three career TOUCHES, leading the Terps to an emotional victory in their first game since McNair’s death. They’d manage just five wins for the year, however.
15. The Ohio State Thriller (2018)
Speaking of which, after back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Indiana, the once-promising 2018 campaign appeared doomed to fall short of bowl eligibility. But something weird happened Nov. 17, as the Terps not only managed to compete with Haskins and the mighty Buckeyes, they actually took them to overtime and had a chance to convert a two-point attempt that would have given them one of the best wins in school history. Unfortunately Pigrome’s pass just missed Jones, and the Terps indeed fell short of the postseason again.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics