Each week seems to bring on a new task for the Terrapins football team. First, it was whether the team could take care of weaker opponents to open the season. Then, it was whether the Terps could win on the road at Connecticut and take down a rival in West Virginia. And they passed each test.
Tomorrow, the No. 25 Terps face another challenge at No. 8 Florida State. They’re ranked during the regular season for the first time since 2008. It’s the first time they’ll play a ranked team while having a spot in the top 25 since 2006. And the Terps will have to do it all at hostile Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., against a team they’ve never beaten on the road.
“The first time I was there, I was a little big-eyed, but this will be my third time going down there,” quarterback C.J. Brown said. “When they throw the spear into the ground with the Seminole, it’s exciting. It’s a great tradition that they have. But it’s just another football game. It’s just another environment. It’s a neat experience.”
The capacity of Doak Campbell Stadium is 82,300, and the Seminoles averaged an announced 75,601 fans per game last season at home. The Terps know they’re in for a test when they take the field shortly before noon Saturday on national television.
So to prepare, the Terps have been piping in crowd noise and loud music for practice, placing speakers behind the benches to make communicating on the field more difficult. It’s worked.
“For me it’s a little nerve-racking with the music turned up loud for two straight weeks,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. “I think it’s good for our players because it makes them focus in and have to really pay attention to seeing the ball and locking in from a focus standpoint.”
Coach Randy Edsall said preparation has been smooth, and he doesn’t expect the crowd to be that much of a factor. Still, the Terps have yet to face a large, hostile crowd like the one they’ll see Saturday. In the Terps’ 32-21 win at Connecticut on Sept. 14, the announced attendance was 38,916.
“I thought it was good,” Edsall said. “We haven’t had any really illegal procedure penalties, snapping the ball too soon or anything like that, so I’ve been pleased with that. We have it. I’m surprised we didn’t get a citation leveled against us for how loud it was out there. They’ve handled that well.
The Terps are winless in 11 tries in Tallahassee with margins of defeat ranging from 48 in 1992 to three in 2009. This could be the year that changes. The Terps already broke a losing streak to a rival in West Virginia, and they’re 4-0 for the first time since 2001. So there’s nothing saying they can’t upset a top-10 team.
And they could do it in one of the toughest places to play in the ACC.
“What a great atmosphere,” Locksley said. “It’s what Coach shared with our guys. What a great opportunity to go and play in front of a big crowd and on the road and having played down there it’s a great atmosphere.”