MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

With nine games down and three to go, it is clear the University of Maryland football team is nothing if not consistent; which is to say, that is not meant as a compliment.

The 5-4 Terps are much improved; far more talented and skilled than they have been in several years. They are a young team, and also a team that has taken more than its fair share of injuries – injuries to many of their very best players, beginning with receiver Dontay Demus, who was leading the Big Ten in receiving through four weeks when he was foolishly put deep to return a kickoff on which his season-ending ACL injury took place.

However, given the black and white of inexperience and a plague of season-ending injuries at all of the wrong places, the Maryland Terrapins are a very undisciplined football team and, despite the obstacles that a Maryland head football coach annually faces based on restrictions placed by the school (as in assistant coaches salaries), that lands at the feet of Terps head coach Michael Locksley, who I not only continue to endorse for the job, but who is a man I want to see succeed on the job he deserves to have very much.

What took place in the Terps’ 31-14 loss to Penn State Saturday in College Park was nothing we haven’t seen consistently throughout the past couple of seasons, just as we continue to see Maryland battle and fight on every play and to the very end, which, to his credit, also lands at the feet of Coach Locksley.

Locksley, with his eye for talent and his magic recruiting skills, continues to raise the level of player, talent and performance in this football program as no Maryland head coach has done since Ron Vanderlinden did it (with assistant coach Locksley’s help) just prior to the turn of the century (I’ve waited my entire life to say that one day about a century I’ve actually seen turn … weird, huh?). Yet the lack of discipline from his teams continues to frustrate Terps fans.

Maryland played right with Penn State, at the time the No. 22 team in the country on a three-game losing streak; yet Maryland continues to shoot itself in the foot at the worst possible moments with its lack of discipline and scheme.

The Terps not only make turnovers at the wrong time, they make turnovers that prevent them from scoring points then turn into points for the opponent. The Terps not only cannot hold a snap count that kills their own drives early, they cannot hold on to seemingly sure-thing first-down or touchdown completions.

Maryland commits the silliest of unforced penalties. Maryland cannot run the football – or chooses not to run the football. Maryland cannot cover in the secondary, which, entering the season, was thought to have been a sure-thing team strength.

“As always give credit to our opponent for how they played and competed,” Locksley said of a 17-point loss to a nationally-ranked team that could have been a victory for his team seeking its sixth win to ensure a long-awaited bowl-game berth. “Felt like we had plenty of opportunities to win the game today. And as we continue to, as we continue to see each and every week, it’s still about more of what we do than it is what our opponents are doing or what our opponents have done. The good news is it’s correctable, something that we can continue to get corrected. I thought the fight was there. I thought our kids competed for four quarters, but we just continue to make mistakes at the most inopportune times.”

And it is a broken record. The coach is even heard to say this after Maryland wins. So, when is it going to be corrected? And whose job is it to make sure it is corrected?

It has become clear that Maryland football is playing to a higher level of skill. Even with the injuries, the Terps just look different this season than they have in recent seasons. The pipeline has seeped open and better and higher-level football players are finding their way to College Park thanks to Locksley.

Even so, for a school like Maryland, life is never going to be easy with Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State on the Big Ten East Division schedule every year (this year’s West opponents, Minnesota and Iowa, were no cupcakes either). In most instances, you’re going to be on the low end of the talent comparison with those teams, particularly along both lines. Therefore, it is imperative to be able to control the things you are able to control to not further open the existing talent gap.

Every week we hear Mike Locksley say the good news is the mental mistakes and the unforced penalties can be corrected. Entering the 10th game of the season, it is not good news that they have not been corrected at all, but seem to have increased.

Mike Locksley deserves to be the Maryland head coach. Thus, Maryland football deserves for Mike Locksley to be the man to correct it.

Mike Burke writes about sports and a lot of other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT