COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Two men made their ACC coaching debuts Monday night. Eight months ago, when Maryland introduced Randy Edsall as its new head coach, few would have argued that the former Connecticut coach had grabbed a better job than Al Golden, who had moved from Temple to Miami a month earlier. Yet there was Golden on Monday, soaked to the bone by sideways rain, urging on a team missing its starting quarterback, its best receiver and five defensive starters because of a scandal that might cripple the program for years. And there was Edsall, yelling at one of his players for scoring a touchdown.
When you can rip a player for a pick-six, you've got the better job.
Maryland beat Miami, 32-24, on a night when the Terrapins committed several unspeakable crimes against fashion. But there is no NCAA rule against uniforms that only serve to prove that Under Armour's design department doesn't have a drug-testing program. There are many NCAA rules against what Ponzi schemer/jock sniffer Nevin Shapiro claims to have done at Miami, and the suspensions of eight players -- five, including quarterback Jacory Harris, will be back when Miami takes the field against Ohio State on Sept. 17 -- are only the start of Miami's troubles.
The investors who lost their money to Shapiro's thievery will suffer the most, but the other victims of Shapiro were the Hurricanes players and coaches who took the field Monday. None had anything to do with the impropriety Shapiro has alleged, but all will suffer in their own way. The players will go through careers scarred either by NCAA sanctions or by the negative recruiting impact of impending NCAA sanctions. They signed to play at The U, but they'll play for a diluted version. Meanwhile, the coaches -- if they stay past this season -- will labor under the weight of something that happened on someone else's watch.
Still, the Hurricanes almost won Monday.
After Maryland kicker Nick Ferrara booted a 32-yard field goal to give the Terps a 26-24 lead with 1:39 remaining, Miami's offense had a chance to drive for a game-winning score. Quarterback Stephen Morris bailed the Hurricanes out of a third-and-15 caused by an illegal substitution penalty when he hit LaRon Byrd for a 17-yard gain. But four plays later, on fourth-and-4 from the Maryland 49-yard line, Morris was intercepted by Maryland cornerback Cameron Chism. Chism returned the ball for a touchdown and got shredded by his coach, but we're talking about Miami's serious problems, not Maryland's fixable ones.
"There's no moral victories," Golden said. "The things that we could control today -- the penalties and the turnovers -- we did not. And it cost us the game."
For those desperate for a silver lining, at least Morris bailed Golden out of potentially awkward situation. Had Morris led the Hurricanes to a win, Golden might have had a hard time giving Harris, a senior, a chance to reclaim his job. Still, everyone involved would have preferred the win and the awkwardness.
What could be more painful for Miami is the tease this year might be. Maryland is a decent team, and Miami -- with a skeleton crew -- nearly beat the Terps on the road. When Miami gets back to full strength, the Hurricanes could be quite good. But they'll be hit hard by graduation, and the specter of the scandal likely will scare away the best recruits for as long as the NCAA takes to investigate and determine any punishment Miami will face. Assuming he stays, that will be Golden's life for the next few years. More than likely, he'll offer a lot of statements like this one in the next few months: "All we can do is what we're in control of," Golden said Monday. "That's improving every day, taking care of business, going to class and focusing on the things we can focus on. Everything else is out of our control."
Meanwhile, Edsall is firmly in control of his program. Since arriving in January, he has plugged the leaks in the office that would have revealed Maryland's hideous uniforms to the world before the prescribed moment. "That makes me more proud than anything," Edsall joked. "We kept that quiet."
After the spirit of Lewis Grizzard assumed control of my keyboard Saturday night to
Meanwhile, the jokes flowed on Twitter. Atlanta's Landon Arnesen
The guys in the uniforms played well at times, but they left plenty of room for improvement. Quarterback Danny O'Brien moved the offense well and threw some beautiful passes while racking up 348 passing yards, but he also threw an early red zone interception when he could have walked into the end zone. Fortunately, Maryland kicker Nick Ferrara made four of five field goals on a soggy night when even the best trio of snapper, holder and kicker would have struggled. Ferrara's go-ahead field goal came after a miss that was the result of a wonky hold, but neither Ferrara nor snapper Tim Downs nor holder Michael Tart allowed the miss to get into their heads. "You don't know what's going to happen," Ferrara said of kicking in a driving rain. "It's complete trust. It's like a pilot and a co-pilot."
The pilot of Maryland's program is Edsall, and he couldn't help but laugh afterward about the lessons he still must teach. While Chism ran back that interception for a touchdown, Edsall screamed on the sidelines for Chism to drop to the ground. Had Chism gone down, the Terps could have come out in victory formation and drained the clock. Instead, Miami got the ball back down eight after Maryland's extra point snap sailed funny in the rain. When Chism ran back to celebrate with his teammates, Edsall met him on the sideline with venom in his eyes. "There are some teachable moments," Edsall said with a smile.
So while Golden tries to steer his program through a mess of someone else's making, Edsall will try to teach his players when they shouldn't score touchdowns. Golden won't make any excuses, but he probably would give anything to trade for Edsall's problems.