Maryland will celebrate its 2001 ACC football champions this weekend.
That’s a team coach Michael Locksley has been thinking about quite a bit.
“One thing that stood out to me when that coaching search took place, for a guy that I call a great mentor, Coach (Ralph) Friedgen,” said Locksley, who was a running backs coach for the Terrapins from 1997-2002. “One of the first things he said, and it’s kind of become a mantra of mine, that Coach Friedgen said to the team was, ‘I’m not going to teach you how to win, I’m going to teach you how not to lose — how not to beat yourself.’”
Losers of three straight games after a promising start, the Terps could really use a steady, clean performance Saturday when they host Indiana. It was one thing when Maryland was routed by Iowa and Ohio State in back-to-back games, but last week’s 34-16 defeat at Minnesota felt different. It came against the type of good-but-not-great Big Ten team the Terrapins need to be able to beat if they’re going to make progress under Locksley.
After 2 1/2 seasons as Maryland’s coach, Locksley can see some similarities with where the program was leading up to that 2001 season.
“There was a group of coaches that really stuck to the process of what we wanted to do and knew the type of players it would take to win,” Locksley said. “There were a lot of press conferences I’m sure for Ron Vanderlinden like I’m having now.”
Vanderlinden was Maryland’s coach from 1997-2000. In 1999, the Terps started 5-2 then lost their final four games of the season. That’s the type of slide this year’s team is trying to avoid.
Maryland eventually changed coaches — another part of the analogy that’s problematic for Locksley — and went 10-2 in Friedgen’s first year. But the point is that sometimes progress is gradual.
“Having been through those experiences of building programs, that’s why I can sit here and have a lot of confidence that we’re ahead of schedule, contrary to what outside the organization may think,” Locksley said. “I feel really confident we’re bringing in the right kind of kids. We’ve got some big-time young players in our program. We’re fighting through it. I think this weekend you’ll have a chance to see us really go out and get back to our standard.”
Maryland will welcome back members of that 2001 team, including Friedgen and E.J. Henderson. For the current Terps, this is an opportunity to show they’re better than these last few weeks have looked.
“It actually means a lot, knowing that those guys still support, knowing that those guys still want to be there to support the younger Terps,” defensive back Tarheeb Still said. “And then it’s an opportunity actually, for us to just put on a show, get back on track and then get back to moving in the right direction as a program.”
This weekend could be the game that determines whether the Terps reach six wins during the regular season. After Indiana, Maryland has to play Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan in succession. Then comes the finale at Rutgers.
Locksley still has his sense of humor. When he was asked about his Halloween strategy, he replied: “Being on a three-game losing streak, I’m a little nervous to let somebody come knock on my door.”
Of course, Locksley hopes by Sunday, that losing streak will be over.
“I just hope this team, a lot like the ’01 team, is sick and tired of being sick and tired — and put our best foot forward this weekend and get back on a winning track,” he said.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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