MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

The importance of Maryland football becoming bowl eligible for the second year in a row cannot be overstated. Depending, of course, on how the final four regular-season games go – at Wisconsin and Penn State, with the final two home against Ohio State and Rutgers – it is unclear what tier of bowl the Terps will be invited to, yet that they became eligible, particularly at such an early date this season, for the second straight year is a mighty big deal for Maryland.

When you consider where this program was when Michael Locksley walked through the doors of the football building in December of 2018, it is nothing short of remarkable that he has produced two bowl teams in the three full seasons he has been the head coach (remember, the Terps played just five games in 2020 due to the pandemic).

Maryland’s previous bowl game was the Quick Lane Bowl in 2016 under former head coach D.J. (Disaster John) Durkin, and prior to that the Foster Farms Bowl in 2014 under Randy Edsall. Of course, prior to that, the Terps went bowling seven out of 10 years under head coach Ralph Friedgen, but that was not deemed to be good enough for the entitled sector of the Maryland boosters, but we won’t even get into that today when everybody is in such a good mood.

While I have yet to be to College Park this fall (still hopeful after four games last year), the positive vibe you began to feel last year in the parking lots prior to the game and inside of Maryland Stadium was real and familiar, from far too many years gone by.

A friend of mine, a Maryland graduate and long-time upper-tier Maryland booster, said that last weekend’s Homecoming crowd was the best he had experienced in College Park in years.

“It was like the old days – the Claiborne years, the Bobby Ross years and Fridge,” he said. “It was spectacular and it kind of disproved that you can never go home again. Maryland fans are back on board. They really believe in what’s going on in Turtleville (that’s what my friend calls our alma mater).”

The fans and the boosters should believe. While we all have cause to agonize over the senseless penalties the Terps continue to commit, and at the same time be outraged by what Big Ten officials continue to call and fail to call (how about a facemask committed on Terps QB Billy Edwards Jr. five yards in front of the back judge that was not called at a critical juncture of the Northwestern game?), we should all appreciate the level of talent and ability that makes up the Maryland roster.

Locksley hasn’t brought a couple of guys in who you might see on Sundays in the coming seasons, he’s brought a couple of handfuls of future NFL talent to College Park. While it’s true some of it is not up to par with the talent base of Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, much of it is as good if not better, particularly the skill positions, as the Terps receiving corps is likely the best and deepest in the Big Ten.

The biggest difference in the talent base at Maryland and at those blue bloods is they have more of it throughout their rosters, which is to be expected as they have been long established. Locksley, on the other hand, is just getting started.

What a terrible gap in lost time it was when Maryland hired Durkin to replace Edsall rather than turn to Locksley, or at least include him on Durkin’s staff. Of course, it’s likely best Locksley was nowhere near the Durkin disaster so he couldn’t be dragged down by it (I mean, look how Matt Canada has been punished for being part of it; actually, he was a saving grace).

Plus, Coach Locks, as he is called, gained invaluable experience in that time under Nick Saban as the Alabama offensive coordinator. Not only that, when he came back to Maryland, he brought quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa with him.

How good is Locksley? Keep in mind, when he was a member of Edsall’s staff, he brought Stefon Diggs to College Park. Yeah … him. Think about that.

It certainly seems as though the sky is the limit for the Maryland football future, and that can even grow should the Terps win at least two more games this season. Personally, I believe three is a possibility when you consider mighty Michigan and Purdue needed assistance from the fellows in the striped shirts to get by the Terps this season.

Not saying Maryland should be undefeated, just saying they could be.

Yep, the vibe is back and it is sensational, which just goes to show that, yes, you can always go home again.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. 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 [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT