Randy Edsall could have been angry when Shawn Petty jogged over to the sideline after throwing a fourth-quarter interception Saturday. He could have yelled at his quarterback, made sure he knew what he was doing wrong and told him not to make the same mistake again.
But that’s not what the Terrapins football coach did. Instead, he simply had a conversation with the young signal caller, gave him some advice and calmly told him what to look for next time.
“It’s a teaching moment,” Edsall said after the Terps’ 33-13 loss to Georgia Tech. “That was probably the first time Shawn has seen that type of situation.”
It almost certainly was. Petty threw that interception on just his 14th career pass attempt in his first-ever start. He hasn’t been a college quarterback long enough to know what the Yellow Jackets were doing on defense.
So how could Edsall be mad? Petty spent the first eight weeks of the season as a scout team linebacker and he’s only been taking snaps at quarterback for two weeks now. Could Edsall really blame him for his miscues Saturday?
He couldn’t, and he didn’t. Edsall knows how ridiculous the Terps’ quarterback situation has been this year. He knows how unfathomable it is to have lost four quarterbacks to season-ending injuries in the same season. And he knows how unheard of it is to be starting a converted linebacker under center.
If C.J. Brown, Perry Hills or Caleb Rowe had posted Petty’s 9-of-18, 115-yard performance, Edsall probably wouldn’t have been able to hide his disappointment after the game. For Petty, though, Edsall looked past the numbers on the stat sheet. He kept his focus on the positive aspects.
He praised Petty for his poise and coachability, complimented his grasp of the offense and credited him for his second-half improvement. In the end, it didn’t really matter what his numbers were. Any bit of success he enjoyed was going to be good enough for Edsall.
In fact, that seemed to be Edsall’s mood about his entire team Saturday. He wasn’t down, after all, because he had very little reason to be up to begin with. His team lost its third straight game, suffered its worst defensive performance of the season and barely stayed afloat on offense. But after everything the Terps have gone through this season, it’s hard to be angry.
He’s not defeated, and he’s not throwing in the towel. He’s just being realistic. Three weeks ago, the Terps had a chance to make a bowl game. Three losses and three season-ending injuries to quarterbacks later, Edsall seems to realize that’s no longer an option for his team.
The Terps have three games left, two of which are against top-25 opponents Clemson and Florida State. With a linebacker at quarterback and a decimated roster backing Petty up, the Terps don’t seem to have much hope of notching a fifth victory this season.
So, just like Edsall’s conversation with Petty late in the fourth quarter Saturday, the final leg of the season becomes a monthlong teaching moment for the Terps. The offense has promise, the defense has talent and the team could have up to seven quarterbacks on the roster next season. At this point, the final three games are just a starting point for next year.
“We have a really good group,” Edsall said. “I told them after the game that we all have to stick together.”
Barring injury, Petty will lead the Terps’ offense for the rest of the season. Barring something unforeseen, the Terps will struggle to win each of their final three games.
But Edsall won’t be mad about it, and he won’t get down on his team. He’ll continue to focus on the positives, and chalk the rest up to bad luck.
After all they’ve been through this season, what else can he do?